Unified Communications Isn’t Unified Without the Customer


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The term “unified communications” is currently enjoying its proverbial fifteen minutes of fame in the IT industry. An umbrella term that encompasses technologies such as phone, voicemail, mobile telephony, instant messaging and even presence technologies, unified communications (UC) strategies are currently being implemented by many companies to make their internal communications processes more streamlined, easier and more cost efficient.

But are they taking the customer and external communications into consideration?

Customers are the most vital point of contact for any organization. As such, any UC strategy that fails to consider the customer and doesn’t bring external communications options for customers into the loop of the UC strategy is forgetting one of the most important constituencies they need to communicate with.

Operations and business managers considering UC strategies must work together to ensure that customers are kept in the loop of the UC strategy. They need to talk to each other about how UC can help the whole organization—because a unified communications strategy is more than just a continuation of an IT strategy throughout an organization—therefore, operations and IT must work together to build a vision of how to implement a holistic communications strategy that includes both the organization and their customers.

Most CIOs are tasked with minding the bottom line. Including contact centers and the customer in UC planning can help ensure that customer-facing business processes are not left out of an organization’s overall UC strategy. Customer service, collections, sales and telemarketing can all benefit from streamlined communications and a direct line to knowledge workers and experts within the enterprise. In addition, applications that have been honed in the contact center through years of customer communications—call recording and monitoring, call routing, and employee scheduling—are critical to the success of a UC strategy that includes the customer.

Successful UC strategies that consider the customer will also bring measurable improvement to key contact center performance metrics such as call resolution, increased sales, higher collection rates and customer satisfaction. According to new contact center research, 10.3 percent* of all telephone inquiries contact centers handle on a daily basis require assistance from knowledge workers in other departments. If a contact center can reduce the time per call by even one minute by fine-tuning the process for leveraging a knowledge worker, contact centers could reduce their cost-per-call by $2.01, which could result in substantial cost savings. Clearly, companies that keep their customers at the center of a UC strategy deployment could see a significant impact on both customer satisfaction and increased revenue. Good customer communication will also ultimately result in those hard-to-define “intangible” benefits, such as reduced customer churn, that are not necessarily a normal part of an enterprise UC deployment strategy.

Both the business and the consumer stand to benefit when a holistic UC strategy is utilized to connect consumers to enterprise knowledge workers via the contact center. Often knowledge workers are the best-equipped to address customer demands. By adding knowledge workers to the pool of customer-facing employees, high-value sales and service interactions can be addressed by the most appropriate employee, no matter where they’re located, based on their availability.

The goal of most enterprise UC strategies is to make employees more productive. By extending that mindset to the external facing parts of your organization—the contact center and, then, the customer– organizations can not only create better internal efficiencies, but they can help keep customers loyal through better communications.

*Source: An Evaluative Report of the Knowledge Worker’s Role in the Contact Center. Leo J. Shapiro & Associates, December 2007.

Mike Sheridan
With more than 2 years of experience in telecommunications and high-tech industries, Mike Sheridan is senior vice president, Strategy and Marketing, for Aspect Software, where he serves as a key strategist.


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