Short (Star) Codes...Really?

Posted by George Platt, President and Chief Executive Officer

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March 18, 2015; 8:29 AM

As the CEO of ESI, just as most CEOs,  I spend a lot of time reading about industry trends, competitive products, customer requirements, technology, human resources, healthcare, user experience… the list goes on and on.   As a result, I subscribe to a number of newsfeed delivery services that enable me to keep up with the mountains of potential reading.  A couple of months ago, one of the articles presented to me really grabbed my attention.


no-star-codesSo what was so interesting that this article caught my eye over the mountain of potential choices?  The title of this white paper was “Understanding Avaya IP Office Short Codes.”  I have no particular beef with Avaya, but Short codes? Are you kidding me?  I admit, at first I found this quite comical, but the more I thought about it I became increasingly disappointed in our industry as a whole.  The industry I am speaking about, of course, is the business telephone industry.  To think that in 2015 business systems still require Short codes to access features on a phone system is appalling to me.  Is this really acceptable?

I remember using *69 to automatically return calls in the early 80s when caller ID did not exist.  When was the last time you used a “*” code on your smartphone?  The fact of the matter is that no real end-user will use star codes.  Either the feature is intuitive and easy to use or it is not, and frankly won’t be used.  The over-featuring and complexity of business phone systems has been a problem since this industry began.  Phones systems are sold and bought based on a multitude of features, and those features should enable employees and businesses to be more productive, that is however, if users actually use them.  Communicating and collaborating should be easy and intuitive.

If features and functions are not intuitive and require users to hunt down how to actually use them, those features will most likely not be adopted and leveraged for business.  The businesses buying these solutions often never realize the productivity benefits that they expected after the system has been installed.  Some have tried to overcome their lack of easily accessible features by making them more readily available via a web-based interface.  The result was a screen packed with a huge number of potential features that were still not easy to use and is not truly integrated with the desk phone or other end user devices.  The issue with the dashboard is the fact that, according to some industry analysts, users only access their dashboards less than 30% of the time.  When people think about making a phone call, they mainly look to their desk phone or mobile device and rarely think about reaching for their mouse.

I recently had a conversation with one industry analyst (cloud PBX analyst) regarding this very subject.  She indicated that her newly installed cloud-based phone system was so difficult to use that she regularly picked up her personal iPhone to make her business calls.  There was no mobile application that tied the cloud PBX to her personal device.  She was making and receiving business calls on her personal iPhone, and now all records of her interactions with the end-customer are lost and invisible to the business owners.  That relationship was now established between the individual and the customer, instead of the business and the customer.  The bottom line is that the business has lost their connection with the end-customer.

So what good is buying a new business phone system when employees just end up using their personal devices because they are more intuitive and easier to use.  Sure, star codes still exist within our systems and services, but I’d never expect an end-user to use them, or even know they exist.  Business features should be accessible with a single push of a button or click of a mouse.  Solutions that still rely heavily on ‘Star Codes’  for key business features often leave customers feeling frustrated, causing them to just simply use the basic features.  It is about the customer’s experience and how our solutions can keep employees productive and connected to the business no matter where they are located.  

At ESI we are continually striving to make advanced business communication products of all kinds that are intuitive and easy to use.  We have been doing this for the past 30 years, and we’ll do it for the next 30 plus years to come.       



Topics: Cloud Communication