February Client of the Month

Holdcom’s February Client of the Month is Hallak Cleaners, a Holdcom client for over ten years that recently began an initiative to support Making Headway, an organization that assists children with brain and spinal chord tumors.  As part of this initiative, they are donating 10 cents for every plastic hanger returned.

Since 1966, Hallak Cleaners has provided the New York City and Northern New Jersey area with professional cleaning services, and is a “Certified Environmental Drycleaner, Certified Couture Cleaner, and Licensed Green Earth Cleaner.” Some of their services include “Wedding Gown Restoration; Designer Handbag and Purse Cleaning; Professional Drapery Take-Down and Re-Hang; Vintage Restoration; Professional Fire & Smoke Damage Restoration; and more.”

Joseph Hallak, and his brother, John-Claude, joined their parents’ company in the early 1980s. Since then, Hallak Cleaners has expanded its online presence and introduced new technologies from around the world, making a difference in their industry and in their community as well.

Below is an exclusive interview with Joseph Hallak – you won’t want to miss it!

February Featured App

Apps

With three blizzards in January alone, accumulating a total of 30+ inches of snow, driving in the Northeast during February is going to be challenging, if not dangerous. Adding to the severity of winter driving is the countless audio and visual distractions presented by mobile technology, or “portable media centers.”

Enter DriveSafely. This mobile application has caused a stir since its release, catching the attention of Techcrunch and the New York Post, as well as winning the Mashable Award for “Best Mobile App of 2010” and first place in the Mobile Apps Showdown at CES 2011.

DriveSafely implements text-to-speech to read incoming text messages and emails. The voice can be assigned a gender [depending on the contact], and according to the New York Post, “sounds far more like a human being than any other text-reading program we’ve used, and it picked up 98 percent of the words in several work-related emails.”

The newest version, DriveSafely 2.0, allows the user to respond to messages in two ways: either through drafting a new message by speaking your desired content followed by saying “send,” or by having pre-written automatic text responses.

Drive Safely LogoSo far this application has had over six million users and has read over 250 million text messages in its three-year life span. It has prevented countless accidents by keeping drivers’ hands on the wheel and their attention on the road.

Holdcom is constantly searching for innovative uses of audio technology in business, the arts, and everyday life. DriveSafely is just another example of how speech detection / audio technology can change how we interact with our surrounding environment.

February Tech/Shipping Feature!

The following is the final installment featuring Holdcom’s specialized departments. For a look back on our journey, check out our September-January Newsletters!

Over the past several months, we have outlined the “Holdcom Story” from start to finish: from the upstairs office of Client Relations to the basement audio editing room of Production, from the quiet offices of Scripts to the conference room of the Executive Team, we have explored how each department is indispensable to the fulfillment of a complete, professional audio production.

Though the “hardcover novel” may be printed and bound, there are many “subplots” of the Holdcom Story that aren’t easily compartmentalized. This month, Holdcom proudly features Joe Pietsch and Brian Lenning.

Joe P (headshot)“After eight years, order entry sounds a bit cheesy,” says Joe Pietsch. “Let’s just call it Traffic Management.” Joe graduated from William Paterson with a concentration in Liberal Arts. On September 22, 2003 Joe joined Holdcom, and has since worked in Client Relations, Order Fulfillment, and Accounting. When Client Relations, or our “Table of Contents”, passes along an order, Joe makes sure it is authorized and that every department knows the proper instructions. Besides functioning as our Story’s index – if a department needs clarification on an order, they go to Joe – he sends invoices, distributes our newsletter, finalizes sales, manages Live Chat Support, and last but not least, makes coffee.

Brian (headshot)“You could say I work with Production, but I’m more Tech,” says Brian Lenning, who graduated from Bergen Community College with a concentration in Computer Science. Working side by side with Production, Brian loads all completed on-hold messages; he uses software to contact / dial up remote equipment. Alongside Tech, Brian is responsible for preparing outgoing equipment and troubleshooting with clients. In our Holdcom Story, Brian is the epilogue – he insures that the “story” is delivered and that customers get ongoing support and supplemental information.

Our Holdcom “novel” is now written, the contents proofread, and the completed product packaged and shipped. But there’s so much more to do! Over the past few months, Holdcom has created a Content Committee, with the Video Department as a subsidiary. Your humble narrator, Jeremy Fishman, is responsible for writing online and offline content such as newsletter articles and daily blog entries, as well as organizing and leading bi-weekly content meetings. Andy Begnoche, featured in the Executive Team, and Joe Blakely, featured in Production, are core members of the Content Committee, with Joe’s expertise in video paving the way for a company video, client video interviews, and more.

Client Relations, Scripts, Production, the Executive Team, Tech/Shipping, and now: Content, the next step to making the “Holdom Story” an engaging, shareable process.

I hope you have learned as much as I have about how a message-on-hold program is made from start to finish. I would like to give a special thanks to you – our clients – and our voice talents; without both of you, we would not have a story to tell.

February Just for Fun

 

From our good friends at Mashable comes a fantastic article about “IBM’s Watson supercomputer [that] bested a pair of Jeopardy! champions in a practice round.”

According to the website of the “four year old system computing project,” Watson is a supercomputer that tackles the question: “Can a system be designed that applies advanced data management and analytics to natural language in order to uncover a reliable insight – in a fraction of a second?”

In other words, can a computer comprehend the subtleties and ambiguities of natural human language? Enough so that “the troves of knowledge written in human terms become easily searchable by a machine in order to deliver a single, precise answer?”

Both Ken Jennings (yes, this Ken Jennings) and Brad Rutter were defeated – quite effortlessly – by the computer. IBM found Jeopardy! to be the perfect testing ground to determine whether a computer can intake speech, parse the information correctly, search for a proper response, and speak the solution.

According to IBM, “open question answering is not about a single keyword, but much more the way normal humans communicate…when humans speak, we ground information in human experience, [this is] not written in a formal data language that computers can understand.”

Take, for example, the following garden path sentence: “Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas.” Who is in the pajamas? Without drawing from human logic, the sentence can be interpreted as:

 

1)      Last night, in my pajamas, I shot an elephant.

2)      Last night, I shot an elephant in my pajamas.

3)      In my pajamas, I shot an elephant last night.

4)      An elephant in my pajamas I shot last night.

 

Apart from the Jeopardy! trial, this technology can be used for customer service, healthcare, speech recognition, emergency response, and more.

February Featured Blog

2011: A Bleak Year for the PC

According to the Pew and American Life Project, “82 percent of adult U.S. consumers who own cell phones are increasing their web activity,” with “38 percent…rely[ing] on their phones to access the internet” and “43 percent access[ing]…several times a day.”

This was from an article dated July 5th, 2010.

Several months and one New Year later, tech-giant Accenture predicts, “an increasing potential for an end in sight for the relevance of the personal computer [or phone] in the home as we know it today.”

The survey focused on “usage and spending on 19 different consumer electronics technologies among more than 8,000 consumers in eight countries in both emerging markets and developing economies.”

A common theme found among “mature” markets was the saturation of the PC market – those sales will decrease while newer, “innovative” technologies such as tablets and smart phones will soar. What influenced the decision to purchase these technologies was “the availability of applications” – with 31% saying it “greatly influenced their purchase decision.” Next in line was consumers’ “willingness to pay a premium price for environmentally responsible tech products.”

But what do these statistics mean?

Check here to continue “2011: A Bleak Year for the PC“!

Read more entires at soundcommunication.holdcom.com!

February Holdcom Tea House Blog Meeting

lit candles

From exploring New Year’s resolutions to cooking a Mexican Luncheon, hosting bi-weekly blog meetings to gathering a “content community,” Holdcom has raised the bar for creating an immersive employee “discussion space.”

Our theme for this month’s blog meeting was “grace under pressure,” and no better way to create a relaxing atmosphere than to transform our upstairs office into a Tea Lounge. An assortment of tea and herbal blends were stacked next to plates of biscuits, cookies, and other teatime snacks. The lights were dimmed, an electronic fireplace [featured in our Holiday Video] was turned on, and ambient lounge music was added to cushion the atmosphere.

The meeting opened with time-honored perspectives on time management and pressure: Peter Marshall, an American TV game show host (1927), said that “when we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” According to Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychologist (1870-1937), “There is no such thing as talent. There is pressure.”

These quotes helped us reflect on ways we react to time commitments, extensive projects, or “rush jobs” requiring same-day fulfillment. For example: If a client calls, panicking, and needs a message-on-hold program right away, the first thing to do is take a step back and guide the situation. Being prepared, knowing that we have the resources to handle a deadline, and having a set process that determines the eligibility of a rush job – all of these help turn stress into productivity.

After discussing the mental effects of stress, we proceeded to talk about the neurological systems involved: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, the former being the “accelerator” and the latter the “breaks.” We then concluded with sharing personal stories about encountering, and handling, stress – and finally discussed potential content for our blog, company video, and more.

tea boxes

This month is February. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the theme of our content will focus around “passion” – whether in work, life, or play.

February Script Tip – Keep it Simple

pencil on white paper with eraser

Everyone groans when they hear an automated voice prompt menu upon calling a business.  We’re hoping these tips help you write a better menu, so you’ll end up with happier clients when they make it through your upfront greetings.

This month’s tip: Don’t include unnecessary symbols in your script.

Keep in mind that when your script is recorded, your wording could be taken very literally.  If you intend to state a simple phrase such as “press one”, don’t write it as “press #1” because it could be misinterpreted as “press pound 1”.  Likewise, if you simply want to say “press two-zero-one” but write it as “press *201*”, it could be misconstrued as “press star 2-0-1 star”.  Prompting callers to enter unnecessary symbols could send them into “IVR purgatory”.

 

Do you look forward to reading our Script Tips every month? Click here to download our “Script Tips ‘Greatest Hits’ Compilation”