By Rob Cook, Director of Carrier Services
An Interesting History
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the mire of today’s technology world and forget just how far we’ve come in a relatively short span of time. What we term ‘communications’ has really been around since the 1800s, back to the days of the first telegraph. Soon to follow came the switchboard and call routing, and people started getting quite used to the convenience of person-to-person connection from a distance.
By the 1960s, companies began realizing a private switchboard would save time and money… enter the ‘private branch exchange,’ or ‘PBX.’ The 70s brought interactive voice response (IVR) by automating call routing so human operators were no longer needed. Snapshot forward to the 80s and 90s, and the world we now call unified communications began to take shape when voice over IP (VoIP) emerged along with instant messaging and chat.
The Emergence of Today’s UCaaS
Today, unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is a cloud-delivered communication platform that supports meetings (audio/video/web conferencing), unified messaging, instant messaging (personal and team), mobility, and communications-enabled business processes. Typically a UCaaS solution includes multitenancy and self-service web portals for provisioning, management, and performance/usage reporting. UCaaS providers then deliver the appropriate applications from a common platform and help centralize management and licensing to simplify the technology overall, speed rollouts, and save costs.
Where UCaaS is Going From Here
Now heaven forbid you read a blog that doesn’t mention the pandemic… so here it goes: the pandemic reinforced the value of, need for, and widespread capabilities of a modern UCaaS solution and what it can offer: voice, chat, email, conferencing, file sharing, virtual desktops, automated transcripts, automated translation and more, all into one central platform and configured specifically to your unique requirements.
Unified communications platforms significantly simplified and streamlined how businesses operated with remote employees, customers, and partners, and in some cases, probably saved businesses altogether through the downturn. It reinforced and expedited the hybrid workforce trend.
According to research from Frost & Sullivan, implementing UCaaS can lead to as much as a 30% reduction in overall IT costs and a 40% increase in employee productivity (statistics that were likely even higher over the last three years).
As with most major technology paradigm shifts, a significant one will set the stage for the next big trend. Such is the case with UCaaS, and this shift has set the perfect stage for omnichannel interaction, or the seamless integration of various communication platforms and touchpoints to provide a consistent and personalized customer experience.
The Impact of Omnichannel and the Future of UCaaS
Omnichannel allows customers to interact with a brand through multiple channels, such as chatbots, websites, mobile apps, social media, and traditional customer service (contact) centers. This approach recognizes that customers may switch between channels during their journey and aims to ensure a cohesive and convenient experience regardless of the channel they choose at any given point.
Businesses use omnichannel strategies to enhance customer engagement, increase conversions, and improve customer satisfaction. By leveraging various channels, companies can provide a seamless shopping experience, enabling customers to browse products online, visit a physical store for a hands-on experience, make purchases through their preferred channel, chat with support to get questions answered, and more. This flexibility and convenience increases customer retention rates and loyalty. Simply put: it’s how customers want to do business with you.
“…companies with strong omnichannel engagement strategies retained an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies.”
The impact of omnichannel on businesses is significant. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, companies with strong omnichannel engagement strategies retained an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies. That’s a substantial gap when you think of how competitive most markets are these days.
Looking into the future, omnichannel is expected to continue evolving and shaping customer experiences, and your unified communications environment is at its core. It no longer only applies to retail, eCommerce, and B2C companies; it applies to every business on the planet.
The increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to personalize and automate interactions across channels will also continue to enhance omnichannel communications by quickly analyzing customer data, predicting preferences, and providing tailored recommendations for every customer in every interaction. This trend enables businesses to deliver more relevant and personalized experiences at every touchpoint.
If this isn’t the standard in your particular industry yet, trust me when I say it will be soon, and it’s definitely time you get moving on it.
Implementing UCaaS and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) to Build Your Omnichannel Strategy
By now, you might be thinking, “I already have most of this in place with a few legacy system stragglers, so what do I do now?” Or, maybe you’re thinking, “I like the idea of UCaaS and replacing some of our dinosaur telephony systems, but does omnichannel even apply to me?” Ahh, I’m glad you asked!
UCaaS is a foundational solution for launching an omnichannel strategy and advancing your customer-centric initiatives whether you’re a B2C- or B2B-focused company. Sometimes, however, getting there proves more complicated than you want, and I realize it can be daunting to determine the right technology based on your unique business requirements.
Some clients get caught in a unified communications technology evaluation abyss, so I’ve outlined several suggestions for selecting the right technology platform and successfully implementing it.
1. Verify technology compatibility and identify customer interaction options. Be sure the platform will seamlessly integrate with other systems in your environment that are mission-critical to the business and your omnichannel strategy, such as your ERP and CRM.
2. Ensure portability. Check your DID numbers to be sure they are portable. If you have hundreds or thousands to grapple with, and they’re not portable, this can create a huge delay in the rollout time and, worse yet, wreak havoc on your customer support and contact center communications.
3. Find experts to ensure seamless integrations. I’ve seen clients attempt to implement a UC platform themselves, and when environments are even remotely complex, this can get messy fast and cause delays and budget overrun. Or they’re able to successfully implement a solution using internal resources, but they have no idea how to effectively configure the system. Either way, expert help here can save you time and money.
4. Spring for training. No, I don’t mean ‘spring training’ and taking your team to a game to enjoy some sun and relax. I mean spring for training by budgeting for user training to ensure everyone touching the system after rollout knows how to execute basic everyday tasks without contacting the helpdesk every 10 minutes. I’m still always surprised by how many companies forgo any training to save a little money in the end, only to find they lose it by 3-5-10x from the almost immediate decrease in productivity and man-hours wasted because users get zero training.
Ready to advance your unified communications strategy?
Let us help prepare you for a more robust omnichannel initiative and provide direction based on your unique industry and/or environment. Contact us today at (800) 544-8877.
“As Director of Carrier Services, Rob brings more than two decades of UCaaS and Telecom experience to pinpointing UCaaS strategies with high-performance technologies.”Rob CookDirector of Carrier Services