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How enterprises can use Unified Communications to tackle the challenges of the future

As we get ready to enter a new decade, businesses large and small face a long list of strategic challenges – and technology will play a vital role in meeting them, particularly when it comes to communications infrastructure.

Enterprises have an even more difficult task, given the scale of their operations: it’s not difficult to imagine how complicated building a future-facing technology strategy for 2,000 individuals working across five offices can be. But by considering the most important issues and planning accordingly, enterprises can tackle the challenges they’re set to face.

Customers want multi-channel communication

Whereas customers might once have put up with bad service simply to avoid the hassle of finding a new supplier, it’s now incredibly easy to research and find alternatives. Accordingly, the price of poor

customer service is high. In fact, one study showed it costs the UK economy £15 billion per year – while 73% of UK consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to the service they received.

Reasons for this include ‘customers being forced to repeat themselves’, ‘customer service staff not knowing a customer’s history and value’, and ‘not being able to switch between communication channels easily.’

This last point is particularly interesting. Clearly, businesses have to be ready to communicate across email, live web chats, video or even social media. While agents must be able to access a customer’s history, no matter where they’re working from, or what channel they’re communicating via.

The rise of flexible working

However, customers aren’t the only ones with changing expectations. It’s well established that employees increasingly want flexible working patterns. Just 14% say they want to work the ‘traditional hours of 9 to 5’, and 70% want to work more flexibility in the future.

Whether it’s starting and leaving earlier, being able to take breaks in the middle of the day to attend to family life, or working from home, employers need to think about how they can accommodate accordingly. Especially if they want to attract and retain the best staff.

Yet they also have to keep providing high levels of customer service. So, businesses don’t just need technology that works well in the office – they need functionalities like picking up a call from both mobile and fixed devices, or being able to see a centralised customer history in one location, regardless of where they’re working from or who has spoken to the customer before.

Tackling uncertain times

Complicating matters even further, enterprises increasingly need flexible tools that can scale up and down with minimal hassle. Most enterprises always have one eye on the possibilities of business growth – which often includes launching new sites, hiring new staff, and keeping technology up to date.

But IT decision makers should always be mindful of the possible need to downsize, whether that’s due to a period of economic uncertainty, a site closing down, or simple ebbs and flows of demand throughout the year.

Unified Communications: a solution for the challenges of the future

All of the problems above can be tackled by implementing a rigorous Unified Communications (UC) solution. With UC, businesses can combine voice, video calling, conferencing and instant messaging in one elegant technology stack that meets the customer demand for multi-channel communication.

UC can also benefit employees. Different conversations can be accessed from different devices, helping to assist flexible working and improve efficiency. And, given Collaborate is a scalable investment with a usage-based payment structure, concerns around up or downsizing can be laid to rest.

The foundations for UC

However, businesses shouldn’t rush to embrace UC without also considering the foundations of their communications infrastructure. A UC technology stack contains a number of bandwidth-hungry applications that require a low latency, high quality network. Without having this network in place, applications won’t function as they should, limiting employee productivity.

The customer experience will also be damaged. There’s nothing more frustrating than the connection dropping out when you’ve queued and waited to speak to an adviser – which means there’s no point in investing in a seamless communication tool to fulfil the need for multi-channel communication if the actual quality of a call, web chat, or video is poor.

So, if you’re purchasing an over-the-top solution without consideration of the underlying network, you might find your new investment doesn’t deliver the benefits you’re expecting. Instead, IT decision makers should look to work with a provider that can provide a high quality and ultra-reliable connectivity solution, as well as UC technology.

Tackle the challenges of the future with confidence

It’s certainly not easy to plan a communications strategy for a multi-site enterprise, and decision makers must always be prepared to be flexible and adapt as needed. But with UC – and the right foundations to support it – large organisations can successfully tackle many of the challenges the coming years are likely to bring.

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