Technology has improved many aspects of our lives in the past decade or so and for the business that deals with a lot of customers in the call centre, unified communications (UC) has and continues to help businesses to deliver excellent customer service. As the name suggests, unified comms is simply the integration of real-time services such as instant messaging, IP telephony, video conferencing with other, non-real-time services such as email, SMS and to some extent, social media. According to Gartner, Inc., “unified communications offers the ability to significantly improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform.” Gartner go on to say that the main goal of UC is to “improve user productivity and enhance business processes.” Commercial UC solutions can be integrated, standalone products, or in a suite that’s provided by a supplier such as Cisco. Broadly, UC can be divided into six main components:
- Telephony – including fixed lines, VoIP, mobile, hosted PBX, IP PBX
- Conferencing – voice and audio conferencing, video conferencing, web conferencing, document sharing
- Messaging – email, voicemail
- Instant messaging (IM)
- Clients – enabling access to multiple communications from a single dashboard
- Communications apps – software apps with integrated communications capabilities
UC FundamentalsCentral to UC is the VoIP network, which must support both voice and data and allow different types of devices to communicate freely. In a call centre, a CRM might be used to present all of the different communications into one dashboard to enable more effective ways of accessing customer details and talking to the customer themselves. In turn this leads to more effective customer service as the customer is dealt with by one operator. Customer service has changed beyond all recognition in a relatively short space of time. This is largely due to social media which has seen a shift take place in the power balance between the customer and the business. Now, customers expect a response to any query or complaint very quickly. The business that’s able to respond to this and deal with customers on a multi-channel basis will be the one that wins out. UC allows this to happen – no longer is a customer forced to wait in a queue whilst they’re connected to yet another department that can’t help them. Now, with UC, their query can be dealt with quickly by one operator who has instant access to all of the customer’s account details through the CRM console. If the customer service rep can’t answer the query, then with UC it’s possible to quickly get a more senior member of staff in on the call to provide the answer.
Making the Most of UCThere are many ways in which UC can be harnessed in order to ensure better customer service.
- Presence for remote agents – this can alert call centre staff to the status of each caller.
- Skill-based routing – allows agents to connect calls directly to a member of staff who has a certain skill-set.
- Real-time training – UC collaboration features allow more than one person to be on a call at the same time for training purposes.
- Multi-channel comms – call centre staff can communicate with customers on various platforms.
- Business continuity – a call centre can enable remote working, allowing the employee to access the comms network and work as they would if they were sat in the office.
- Wideband sound – this gives the impression to the customer that the call is a private one-to-one call due to improvements in audio.