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Is Your Organization Ready to Implement Unified Communications?
By Mike Gioja, CIO & SVP, IT, Product Management & Development, Paychex
A key component for meeting customers’ service expectations is speed—enabling faster, more personalized and easily accessible communications—while regularly enhancing efficiency. This includes improving business processes and increasing employee productivity. In each case, data translated to actionable information plays a key role in determining what adjustments to make and how to make them.
To achieve strategic imperatives focused on stronger customer service and operational efficiencies, many organizations increasingly rely on a system of unified communications (UC). This approach integrates all real-time and non-real-time communication mediums—instant messaging, voice, email, and video conferencing—and funnels them into a common platform. UC is customer-intimate, enabling customers to communicate with you when, where and how they want, and it streamlines communications within your company, too. For example, employees can listen to a voicemail message through their email or chat online with a colleague during a conference call all through the same interface.
While UC is more common today, how it is used depends on your business objectives. If you’re thinking about switching to a UC system, keep in mind the following benefits, questions and considerations.
Key Benefits of UC
A UC implementation offers great business potential. Key benefits include:
• Personalized Communication. Every customer has a preferred method of communication, and providing options improves overall satisfaction. A UC system integrates real-time communication through a number of channels, empowering customers to choose the best method for their needs—whether through online chat, speaking on the phone with an agent, using video or texting a quick question. The customer can interact with the business in any way they want.
• Powerful Analytics. UC provides comprehensive transaction and communication details for customers, which enables all agents to view the interaction history. This data helps agents anticipate customer behavior and provide better service. The data can also help organizations examine agent behavior and customer patterns to identify opportunities for streamlined, faster interactions, such as redirecting customer inquiries from phone to chat.
• A Single Pane of Glass. UC prevents agents from having to open multiple applications to interact with customers. A common platform provides new levels of flexibility and operational efficiency that the business can build on to improve customer engagement.
• Lower Ongoing Costs. A traditional telephony system operates over copper wire, which can be expensive over time. UC systems are VOIP enabled, utilizing existing IP trunks.
Is Your Organization Ready to Switch?
Make no mistake, UC will change the way you work and manage your business. Employees will need to modify their behaviors and workflows, and leaders will need to learn how to refocus the business based on new data sets.
The workplace should be rearranged to encourage interactions and easy exchange of ideas
Before you switch to UC, consider these questions:
1. Are you truly ready? Your corporate culture is a primary consideration. Is your business ready for this big of a change at this time? Approach the move to UC with your eyes wide open and a strategy that allows you to manage and effectively communicate throughout the transition. Develop a solid communications plan to articulate expectations and spell out how the customer experience will be different.
2. What is the vision? Identify the business problem you’re trying to solve with UC, and restate your vision repeatedly along the journey. This will help keep the cross functional team motivated and focused. It is recommended to align the vision and tactical policy and procedures that will need to be used on your new UC system.
3. How much experience do you have on staff to support the platform? Don’t underestimate the training required to transition to UC, and be prepared to invest. Arm your staff with the tools they need to be successful in using the new technology and align with experienced business analysts to lean out existing processes.
4. How will you monitor the solution? Develop a plan for how you will measure the quality of communications, analyze data and optimize your approach. UC systems produce more data than you’ve had before, and it is important to agree on success criteria, evaluating and evolving metrics along the way, and piloting solutions with key sites.
5. Do you have the right partners?Partners are key to success. Interview and evaluate potential vendors, request references, and talk with others about the lessons they learned. You will want to work with a partner who has experience and knowledge with UC implementations.
Paychex Unifies its Communications
The company I represent, Paychex, is a large organization—590,000 clients, 13,000 employees nationwide and more than 100 locations. We interact with our customers continually, and technology and service are key pillars in our business. Our teams successfully service about 9 million customer inquiries a year. The legacy communications platform we previously used presented challenges and we needed a better solution. For example, the telephony system didn’t provide a way to directly route customers to preferred agents.
Now, with UC, we can look up a customer’s query history based on their inbound number and route them directly to their agents. Through that automated process, customers bypass having to listen to a menu of options–they want to reach their agent as quickly as possible. Since introducing the ability to quickly direct calls, we’ve received higher satisfaction rates. That’s just one way UC has proven beneficial for both Paychex and our customers.
We approached the transition to UC by first putting a great team in place capable of taking the project from concept to reality. We also made sure we had the buy-in of senior leaders to help set the direction business-wide. People don’t like change unless they really understand why it’s necessary. It is greatly beneficial to have business leadership communicate strategic value and importance to the company and our customers, driving insights to influence behavior. Technology is a catalyst to solving a challenge—so it’s incumbent upon leadership to explain how UC will improve customer service and business processes.
The Future of Unified Communications
In terms of what’s coming next for UC, look for much greater utilization and integration of video, texting and chat. These are capabilities customers increasingly request.
On the organization side, expect more intelligent routing that sends inquiries to agents based on their specific knowledge or proficiency level. Additionally, intelligent routing will limit disruptions that would otherwise occur when a natural weather event or a carrier problem impacts a service location, enabling automatic re-routing to another site.
UC will further aggregate a customer’s online and service experience so agents can best meet their needs. This requires looking at customer experience survey data and sales potential in the pipeline so that UC becomes the conduit for better servicing customers.
Unified Communications can significantly advance the way that an organization does business. It’s a big change that should be looked at holistically and it requires thoughtful consideration and examination.
The keys to achieving a successful implementation and ongoing utilization of UC include securing leadership buy-in, and sharing the vision to inform, prepare, and motivate the teams. Ultimately, a company-wide change links back to your culture, talent and the ability to simplify, execute and learn along the way. When done right, an organization will reap many benefits from Unified Communications, short term and for years to come.
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