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August 20, 2012
By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View/ UC Strategies Expert
There are several key benefits to be gained from unified communications (UC) to be realized by an organization, but there are also different technologies involved in implementing UC. If you are on the IT side of the organization, reducing costs and simplifying implementations and integrations through UCaaS offerings will be the key benefits technology vendors think you want to know about. If you are a business unit manager, you might be told about how Mobile UC will speed up operational performance when end users are working away from their desks or office. Most importantly, however, business organizations will start hearing more about how their mobile customers can be better served at lower operational costs with multi-modal, self-service applications that are "UC-enabled.”
The best choice should be “all of the above,” but unfortunately, most vendors in the “UC” market focus these days on the benefit that is closest to their particular product or service offering. That is why you see the IP telephony vendors harp on starting your UC journey by replacing your phone system. But, legacy telephony has been entrenched in more than person-to-person conversational voice, so the migration to UC has to be really more than implementing IP telephony connections.
It’s All About Business and Communication Applications
While integrating telephony functions is a key challenge for UC enablement, voice connections are just one option for person-to-person communications. As more consumers exploit the flexibility of mobile smartphones and tablets, they are texting more, rather than making phone calls. This is particularly true for the younger generation, which never really had much to do with expensive cell phones.
Communication applications are more “open,” and UC-enablement facilitates the ability to easily switch modalities between real-time connections and asynchronous messaging. Just as “telephone answering” services let a caller leave a voice message for a failed phone call attempt, now, with UC integrations, voice connections can be initiated from a message or a chat connection.
UC-enablement can be even more useful in providing user access to online (self-service) applications, particularly from mobile devices, as opposed to desktop or portable PCs. For consumers, who were restricted in the past by legacy IVR applications, self-service applications no longer have to start with a phone call. In fact, the reverse is becoming true – online applications are becoming a primary gateway to a voice or chat connection for live customer service.
Many market studies have confirmed that most consumers would prefer direct access to information and business transactions, rather than have to deal with a live person. Of course, such access would have to be simple and easy to use from an interface perspective. That is one area where the combination of speech input (like Apple’s Siri) combined with visual information output would be the fastest and easiest way for a mobile user to interact with an online application. However, the choice of user interface has to be dynamically controlled by the mobile end user, depending on their circumstances, e.g., while driving a car, in a noisy environment, or sitting in a meeting. Such flexibility is now possible with Mobile UC technologies.
Where Is The Greatest UC Payoff Going To Be Found?
While UC has been particularly promoted by telephony vendors to support “collaboration” between team members who need to communicate efficiently regardless of their physical locations, I look at UC enablement having even greater potential when used to support customer services. I haven’t researched the numbers, but I am sure that most business organizations have more “customers” than they have internal employees. That certainly applies to government as well. If you go by the numbers, there will typically be more “customers” benefiting from UC enablement, than internal users. So, there will be more increased productivity, end user satisfaction, and reduced costs coming from customers than just from internal staff.
Add the fact that customers also generate revenue, and the value of UC enablement to serve customers becomes extremely high!
This perspective does highlight the need to seriously consider implementing what I have been calling the “UC Contact Center” to replace legacy call centers. Doing that has recently become significantly easier with the advent of a variety of “cloud”-based services that specialize in contact center applications and integrations for both customers and customer-facing staff, e.g., Echopass. So, if you are seriously concerned about how to migrate your legacy call center operations to the UC-enabled future, start by taking a really hard look at the right kinds of “cloud”-based applications and services.