It’s taken a while, but we are finally seeing unified communications finally taking over customer interactions in a big way. This applies not only to just large organizations, but also to any size organization in every type of market segment.
Three key factors are bring new impetus to this shift in business communications:
· Mobile consumer devices Multi-modal mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, have expanded convenient and fast direct consumer access to online, self services, including various modes of person-to-person contacts, online information access and transactions, and proactive notifications by automated business processes.
· Interoperability and integration between various forms of person-to-person communications and business process applications Because there is increased flexibility required for contacts with mobile people, the various forms of communication must now dynamically be controlled by the end users, depending upon their individual needs and circumstances as contact initiators or recipients/respondents.
· Cloud-based applications As both communication and business process software applications become location independent, developing and integrating them in cloud environments becomes critical to faster and lower-cost implementations and ongoing change management.
Clearly, customer services are rapidly changing from legacy call centers to unified interaction centers, where online self-service applications are reducing the need for live assistance to consumers to get information or perform simple transactions, but also facilitating flexible access to specialized assistance whenever needed. The result of such flexible customer assistance is greater personalization, experience customization, and customer satisfaction.
Customer services are becoming recognized as high-value applications that are benefiting from consumer BYOD, UC-enablement, and cloud services.
Customer services used to be locked in together in different technology platforms that were difficult to integrate. As a result, only big organizations could afford to invest and support implementing all the pieces involved with legacy telephony call centers.
Adding to the challenge of supporting customer services has been the advent of mobile UC and multi-modal live assistance and self-service applications, not just phone calls. So, while UC-enabled business communications focused initially on internal organizations and collaborative contacts, the big customer service markets were pretty much stuck on old CPE-based call center telephony. Now, however, with increased consumer mobile flexibility, cloud-based applications are making big waves in all kinds of customer service applications.
Going After the Big SMB Market
I have always felt that customer services will really be the same for small or large organizations. The main differences showed up in things like:
· how big your market is;
· how much live assistance and expertise will be needed by different customers;
· software tools for running operations smoothly, training customer-facing staff;
· management tools and metrics to insure customer responsiveness satisfaction; and
· customization of self-service applications for different types of applications, especially mobile apps.
I am glad to see Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert), among other leading customer service software technology vendors, going after the SMB market, since small businesses really need to use most of the same technologies as larger organizations. By definition, there are more SMBs out there than the larger enterprise organizations. With the advent of consumer BYOD, the opportunities have increased significantly for providing the expertise of third-party channel partners and consultants to develop and support multi-modal customer services in public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.
The cloud environment will be particularly useful for implementing and managing integrations and self-service customizations. That always used to an expensive and time-consuming effort. Now, with all application technologies moving into interoperable clouds, it should no longer be any big problem for any size organization to move forward selectively with individual customer groups, customer-facing staffs, and specific customized online applications, associated with different forms of live assistance.
Bringing the Right Experiences to the Customer Service Table
As confirmed in many recent market studies, mobile customers are now expecting:
· more access to mobile online self-services;
· pro-active mobile notifications and alerts, rather than calling in or checking online;
· greater flexibility in choice of user interfaces (voice, visual); and
· options for multiple forms of smart access to live assistance when needed.
So, stay tuned for the next-generation unified interaction center.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi