20 March 2015

Unified Communications is not enough

Written by Nicole Robinson, Posted in Unified Communications, ComputerTalk

“The primary goal of unified communications (UC) is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes […] Gartner defines UC products (equipment, software and services) as those that facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communications methods to obtain that goal.” (Marty Parker, http://www.ucstrategies.com/unified-communications-strategies-views/gartner-uc-magic-quadrant-2014-a-clear-picture-of-the-changing-landscape.aspx)

UC allows organizations to meet the growing demands from customers and employees. According to Gartner analysts, a UC solution delivers at minimum telephony, conferencing, messaging, presence and IM, clients, and communications-enabled applications.

Employees are able to complete tasks faster when they can move seamlessly from one device or channel to another. Employees are able to communicate with colleagues from any location, allowing organizations more flexibility and ability to save money.

While UC solutions cover several product categories, they often do not come with all of the communication features that enterprises require. Organizations that face this gap would require flexible UC systems that can integrate with other business solutions. Organizations must understand the capabilities and limitations of UC solutions and the benefits that can come from integrating UC with other business solutions to get the most value out of their deployment.

Software Advice, a free online comparison tool for VoIP software, has recently released a 2015 report on enhancing business processes with UC systems. The data from their report shows that, in order to meet business needs, organizations need more than what traditional UC solutions can provide. According to their analysis, the most common types of software solutions organizations integrate their UC systems with, are Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions (40%) and call center solutions (36%). Organizations are integrating these solutions primarily to enhance screen pops (26%), click-to-call (22%) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) (16%).

 Case Studies: Top Systems Integrated With UC Solutions

CRM and call centers are the most common types of software involved in UC system integrations. CRM helps organizations connect with customers in a more meaningful way by centralizing customer information, making it easier to collaborate, and streamlining process costs. With centralized customer information employees are able to view previous interactions with a customer, making it possible for customers to seamlessly switch between interacting with different employees. CRM can automate approvals and implement best practice policies to reduce costs. Organizations are able use this information to run reports and generate metrics. By integrating CRM systems with other business solutions organizations are able to import and export information from CRM, creating a more value-added UC experience for users.

Call centers have evolved to include more than just voice. Contact centers optimize productivity by integrating with voice, video, IM, webchat, SMS, and social media. By integrating with organizations’ UC solutions, the contact center is able to seamlessly interact with the rest of the organization to create a unified experience. Today, users expect to be able to seamlessly transitions between different modalities and elevate IMs to voice or video calls. Contact centers are also able to integrate with the organization’s existing CRM system to provide agents with accurate information to appropriately handle interactions. Contact centers that integrate with existing UC solutions, such as ComputerTalk’s ice contact center solution, streamlines communication processes and facilitates a quick return of investment.

Case Studies: Top Functionality Added Via UC Integrations

Screen pops, click-to-call, and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) are the most common communications functionalities that are enabled through UC integrations. Screen pops provide agents with additional information such as account information, contact information, or interaction history for a caller, emailer, etc. in a new window. This information is often pulled from a CRM system or IVR menu. Screen pops can be customized to indicate the priority level of an interaction. For example, it would let agents know if the caller is a VIP customer that requires special attention. Agents are able to instantly become familiar with the caller in order to provide excellent customer service.

Click-to-call features allow users to dial a phone number with one click. Click-to-call can be added to a variety of business applications to increase productivity and cost savings.

IVR gathers information about the caller’s intent – this information can be used to appropriately route calls, IM, and emails. IVR systems can also provide callers self-service options, providing information during closed hours, allowing them to pay bills, and book appointments. This reduces the number of resources required and allows them to redirect their efforts to other activities.

The study also analysed Microsoft and Cisco’s successful custom integrations with UC products in support communities. The forums they examined showed different results from the case studies, as they focused more on integrations between UC solutions from multiple vendors (35%). Find out more at http://www.softwareadvice.com/voip/industryview/uc-integration-report-2015/.

Integrating multiple software solutions into UC systems can improve efficiency and reduce the costs of business processes. Working with your solutions providers to define business needs and specify exact functionality requirements is one of the ways to ensure you are getting the right UC platform that would support the communications tools you need.


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About the Author

Nicole Robinson