Struggling with the reality of multichannel customer communications?

Unified communications
Today’s socially networked consumers are demanding more from the companies they do business with. They are expecting higher levels of service and enhanced communications provided through more channels, and have more outlets for voicing opinions about their experiences than ever before.

Communication choices are expanding way beyond voice, chat and email to include SMS/text messaging modes, customer communities using social networking, and access to content-rich, user-directed, self-service experiences through the Internet. And as these channels are expanding, so are consumers’ expectations.

According to recent research, however, while European organisations are increasingly supporting multichannel communications, they’re not doing so in a co-ordinated way – and this represents many lost opportunities to improve communications, business performance, and the customer experience.

Presented with a long list of communications capabilities from email to mobile devices, traditional voice (PSTN/PBX), conferencing, VoIP, instant messaging (IM), document sharing, presence and video, 56% of European organisations responding to the UC-Trends 2010 survey* said they use six or more – yet only 17% said that they have fully integrated them on a unified communications (UC) platform (with a further 38% stating they had ‘partially integrated’ them).

This is despite the fact that respondents saw clear benefits in UC. Twenty-two percent saw ‘improved employee productivity’ as the main benefit of investing in a UC platform, 12% believed it was ‘travel cost reduction’, 13% ‘mobile office’ and 12% ‘saving time and resources using presence’. And a massive 83% agreed that the value of UC increases when it is extended to customers.

So what is holding organisations back from offering customers a comprehensive and integrated multichannel service?

Often, it’s not the technology, per se, it’s the business processes required to support multichannel operations and the complexity of technology integration. High costs and lengthy integration times, for example, often hamper deployment. And then there are ‘human factors’ such as having the tools to: track the effectiveness of individual agents; manage, coach and optimise performance; and staff effectively to enhance customer satisfaction and improve business results.

Today’s unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) technologies address these issues and provide the foundation for next-generation contact centres by connecting not only the contact centre and the rest of the enterprise, but also the enterprise and the customer in new ways.

By unifying customer contact capabilities including inbound routing, voice portal, outbound dialling, and workforce management with features such as unified messaging, rich presence, multimedia conferencing, desktop and data sharing, web portals, social computing and content and knowledge management, the latest UC&C solutions are able to:

  • Reduce cost and complexity by eliminating costly computer telephony integration (CTI) expenses
  • Blend functionality to handle inbound and outbound calls with the same agent
  • Automate proactive care using outbound self-service
  • Staff the right agents with the right skills at the right time to reduce staffing costs
  • Unify routing rules enabling you to provide consistent service to customers across voice, email, and web channels
  • Blend skilled agents across voice or internet contact channels as volumes rise and fall throughout the day

It’s an advanced set of capabilities that’s designed not only to enhance customer experiences but also to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs and improve workforce effectiveness. Giving organisation’s the confidence to deploy comprehensive and integrated multichannel services that leverage the capabilities of the broader enterprise to resolve customer queries faster and more effectively.

 

By Mark King, senior VP, EMEA, Aspect.

* A total of 237 individuals took part in the 2010 Aspect pan European UC-Trends survey between February and May 2010. Survey respondents came from a broad spread of industries (from public sector to financial services, healthcare, utilities and telecommunications) and represent different company sizes.

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