The UCStrategies Experts share their expertise in bylined articles, opinion pieces, blogs, and podcasts, to define unified communications, educate you about unified communications technologies, and help you make informed decisions about unified communications solutions.
UCStrategies.com defines unified communications as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” The definition of unified communications narrows significantly when you can read and hear about real-world examples that other companies are implementing right now—and apply them to your situation.
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Technology providers are starting to whistle a different tune when it comes to contact center operations. Rather than keep promoting traditional call center responsibilities for handling inbound and outbound phone calls with live agents, they are starting to jump on the self-service application bandwagon that can be expanded with mobile, multimodal smartphones and tablets. As more and more consumers use these mobile devices instead of voice-only phones, the role of online self-service and “mobile apps” has exploded, subsuming traditional forms of customer contact and support. This, in turn, has also allowed the implementation of such automated applications to move to “cloud” – based hosted and managed on-demand service usage, rather than legacy, premise-based hardware and software ownership.
This trend will increase customer satisfaction with faster, flexible, and personalized access to information, but also reduces operational costs, increases flexibility in accommodating changing customer support demands, and even facilitates more efficient use of customer-facing staffing with remote and home-based agents, as well as access to subject matter experts.
As mentioned in my recent post, webinar speakers from the National Association of Call Centers described two key factors that are changing the direction of traditional customer contact centers.
Paul Stockford, Research Director for the Association, highlighted the fact that “Big Data” analytics for contact centers involves ALL customer interactions, including voice calls, email, and chat. David Butler, Executive Director of the Association, pointed to the growing need to automate simple customer service tasks with self-service applications to minimize demand for live assistance. Needless to say, both directions are required by increasing consumer use of multimodal Mobile devices and “mobile app” capabilities.
In a recent “virtual” conference on “Next Generation Contact Centers” presented by “Virtual Enterprise Connect,” the opening keynote presentation by industry analyst Sheila McGee-Smith did an excellent job of describing what some of the leading contact center technology providers are now starting to offer for improved mobile customer experiences. What she reported confirms what we see evolving for customer services, as unified communications and wireless mobility subsume traditional person-to-person telephony and location-based connections.
There is no doubt that the reason unified communications (UC) never took off in the past, is because the end users did not have multimodal endpoint devices that let them benefit from UC flexibility when needed. As I have pointed out many times, sitting comfortably at a desktop with wired PCs, phones, and fax machines, made it easy to be inefficiently “multimodal” without integrations. However, once an end user is mobile, the need for UC flexibility with a single multimodal device increases significantly. The question then becomes one of a suitable mobile device, and voice-only mobile phones and text pagers just didn’t hack it.
When Steve Jobs showed off Apples first new iPhone back in 2007, I welcomed the device as a “UC smartphone” to highlight the role UC enablement will play maximizing flexible interoperability across different forms of communication contact. However, it hasn’t been until recent developments like Apple’s Siri, that the iPhone 4S could fully exploit voice and text user interfaces.
So, now that mobile smartphones and tablets are displacing the use of wired desktop devices for communication tasks and information access and delivery, we see a ripple effect of new technologies slowly “subsuming” legacy approaches. I use the term “subsume” to indicate that the old methods are not completely disappearing, but are becoming less used than the new approaches.
So, here’s my list of technologies that are shifting how business communications will be implemented and supported by subsuming older technologies or by being subsumed by the new technologies:
Increasing end-user mobility means that the software applications and the information they use shouldn’t be location dependent. Whether using “private” or “public” clouds, the bottom line is that access by anyone involved in a business process can do so with the device of their choice from anywhere and anytime. It also means that the developers and customizers of UC-enabled applications can more easily update and integrate them with other online resources. Finally, it also allows business and operations management to gain real-time access to analytical activity data (including social networking) about their internal users, business partners, and, most importantly, about their customers and customer-facing staff.
So, mobility is helping to drive application software and associated data into the “clouds,” thus creating the need for experienced “cloud” service providers who can provide the necessary support and resources to accommodate the varying needs of different organizations and their different types of users. The “cloud” environment not only supports mobile end users, but it also allows consumers/customers to have similar (but not identical) mobile access as internal users to and from self-service applications and associated online information.
While UC and “Mobile Apps” can make things easier for customers, there will also be an impact on customer-facing agents who have to deal with dynamic “click-for-assistance” requests from customers using self-service applications. I won’t deal with that issue in this post, but the topic is discussed in Sheila McGee-Smith’s presentation.
The challenge for every organization is how to migrate “gracefully” from their current operations to the UC-enabled Mobile environment of the future. Fortunately, leading providers are starting to offer functionality in that direction. Needless to say, the solution to supporting mobile customers will involve operational management as well as all customer-facing staff, wherever they are located. What will be interesting, however, is to see who ends up being the most trusted supplier of the cloud services: the vendors of the platforms, the application software developers, or the channels that know how to integrate and maintain the applications on an ongoing service basis?
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?