By Angie Reed
What if callers could be connected to the right person on the first try without having to listen to long on-hold messages or wait for a callback?
What if you could optimize your call queues based on the time of day and schedule agents accordingly?
What if you could take calls, transfer calls, or even record calls from your mobile device without interrupting the call?
What if you could see the callers’ location, along with associated calendar appointments and emails in real-time with their incoming calls?
What if you could automatically schedule a follow-up event or schedule a technician on-site based on location and availability, without waiting to manually check availability?
These unified communications (UC) examples will undoubtedly improve and provide competitiveness to business communications. In fact, UC is a solution embraced by companies of all sizes, even small ones. Why? These are just a few examples that illustrate some of the ways UC facilitates productivity and essentially makes life easier for businesses. Efficiency gains ranging from 20 to 50 percent can be measured by simply implementing UC into a network. An Aberdeen Research analyst cites the following:
- A 53 percent improvement in customer service metrics compared with an increase of just 1 percent among those at the low end of the performance scale.
- A 49 percent improvement in workforce productivity metrics compared with an increase of just 3 percent among those lagging in UC.
- The ability to contact an employee within ten minutes compared with sixty-six minutes among those at the other end of the deployment spectrum.
The steps to accomplish these productivity gains and allow businesses, such as call centers, to do more with less include the implementation of a phone system that enables the automation of other types of business processes. Consider that UC can include both basic functions, such as click-to-call, as well as advanced features that enable business processes by accessing real data in back office applications and optimizing it for call center agents.
Inherent UC Capabilities: UC encompasses four primary features: presence, chat, unified messaging, and speech-to-text. Presence allows agents to know when your coworkers are on the phone and when you can transfer a call to that employee. It also provides the option of knowing when to send a call directly to voicemail, reducing the caller’s anticipated wait time. Similarly, agents can avoid transferring a call or interrupting a coworker by instead using an integrated chat feature, which enables coworkers to easily ask and answer questions, without further inconveniencing the caller.
Another common feature within UC is unified messaging, which enables users to receive voicemail in an email format. This can allow for faster responses. Taking this one step further, speech-to-text applications allow users to access their voicemail in a more convenient context.
These features are typically inherent to UC solutions, though UC often has the power to improve productivity beyond these expected services. One such advanced feature is the flexibility to extend beyond the existing phone system and database to dive into CRM or ERP systems, a compelling feature for businesses of all sizes. These features are considered to be more advanced and work in tandem with communications-enabled business processes (CEBP).
Advanced UC Capabilities: Beyond unified messaging and presence, UC easily promotes benefits such as mobile support, email integration, website click-to-call, conferencing, and collaboration. All of these features allow users to access their data and business-critical applications from a single interface, their computers, thereby saving what can add up to a substantial amount of time.
Frequently, UC solutions offer a single dashboard to not only manage calls, call queues, and contact center details, but also to manage other applications, such as CRM records or location services. This is where CEBP readily integrates with UC. CEBP allows pop-ups, database dives, reporting, and monitoring to occur based on the UC solution. For example, incoming calls can trigger an automatic follow-up from an HR database or call center list without the need for anyone to manually touch the process.
Basic CEBP may also integrate email calendars with phone systems, permitting users to see calendar invites automatically and click-to-call a contact. More advanced CEBP integrations allow for the UC-enabled phone system to integrate with location services to easily see where remote workers are at a specific moment and determine if the remote worker is able to take a call. If so, it automatically triggers a follow-up with the customer based on current location and status and subsequently updates the CRM record with this information.
The intelligence of a UC-based phone system – with an open architecture – allows for easy integration with other key applications and promotes efficiency by enabling automatic processes to occur. The result is that businesses – especially those dependent upon communications systems to help maximize growth and profit – save time and money.
Businesses, such as call centers, recognize this opportunity and are making smarter decisions when purchasing their phone systems. Research shows that the trend of choosing UC-based phone systems is definitely on an uptick. Businesses are placing UC adoption at the top of their primary goals, recognizing it as a way to improve communications and efficiency.
In fact, according to Forrester Research, nearly 70 percent of businesses have prepared a business case or a strategic plan to adopt UC and collaboration, driven by the need to:
- Reduce operating costs
- Increase productivity
- Improve the reliability of communications
- Improve cross-function communications and collaboration
In a Gartner Research survey of more than 1,500 CEOs, UC and collaboration are being utilized to help organizations meet the following top three business priorities:
- Improve business processes
- Reduce enterprise costs
- Improve workforce effectiveness
As businesses work to improve efficiencies and learn how to work smarter, the communications system is one of the biggest and most accessible tools to assist in accomplishing this goal. UC paves the way to become more efficient and achieve savings goals, while also providing a competitive edge.
Angie Reed, product marketing manager for business phone systems with Digium, is a subject matter expert in VoIP and telecommunications, with thirteen years of experience. Her background includes technical and business IT roles. She is the author of multiple technical articles and most recently completed the TCO Study: IP Buyer’s Guide, which compares the best value in IP telephony solutions. She is CCNP and CCNA certified and has an MBA from the University of Alabama.
[From Connection Magazine – Jul/Aug 2011]