Over the last decade the face of business communication has changed irrevocably. Traditional phone systems which used to be managed as a separate entity from the rest of IT have now converged with the arrival of VoIP and Unified Communications (UC).
With the advance of the internet, ecommerce, WiFi and high-speed internet connectivity, there has also been a shift in the way customers want to communicate with businesses, accelerated by new multi-media platforms such as mobile and the rise of social media.
Unified Communications is the consolidation of all communications and networking resources into a single infrastructure. This can provide great opportunities for IT resellers, as helping businesses consolidate technologies can deliver considerable cost savings for them, and increase their ability to adapt quickly to technological changes. It can also improve the customer experience and increase sales and profit for businesses.
Research by Ovum in 2013 concluded 80 per cent of businesses will be implementing UC in the next two to three years. However many are still failing to reap the benefits of this approach and meet the needs of modern customers.
Resellers could provide businesses with the following reasons for implementing this technology:
Link presence information with business applications
It is important for businesses to use UC to enhance their services, retain customers and keep them coming back. Today customers have a short attention span and are quick to fire off an angry tweet if businesses ignore a problem, or are kept waiting for a resolution. Resellers can educate businesses on rich presence, an enhanced form of presence awareness in which participants can determine if other users are online and observe what they are doing. This can also be combined with intelligence call routing to help achieve first call resolution. By linking presence information with key business applications such as calendar functionality, businesses can identify times when the correct person is available and how best to contact them to ensure customer queries or problems are answered as quickly as possible.
Ensure all applications line up
For managers, a software-based UC solution such as Swyx acts like an app and can be fully integrated with other critical applications. The result is that all communications are in sync with everything else that’s going on in a business. Resellers can educate businesses on this joined up level of communication giving managers the ability to engage in highly personalised conversations with customers that make them feel valued, resulting in repeat business.
Prioritise important customers
By integrating a phone system with other back office applications, businesses can tailor communications depending on customers. With UC it is possible to flag important customers to the same individual or branch that they would normally request to speak to or even escalate the call, so they are not left holding in a queue.
Support a virtual workforce
With the rising costs surrounding business operations, IT resellers can help businesses understand how UC can support a virtualised workforce. With rich presence a business can see immediately when and how it could communicate with a remote employee, making it much easier to set up a virtual face-to-face between colleagues or customers. By offering the option for workers to operate away from the office businesses can reduce overheads too with options such as hot desking while still allowing access to communication and third party applications.
Create effective international working
If a business wishes to operate across different countries or time zones UC can help them enhance communication between international teams and customers. Businesses can use extended call routing to switch enquiries from one resource to another, taking advantage of a global market via online sales and around the clock territories, with each shift being taken care of by a different call centre or even home-based workers.
UC presents a huge opportunity for the channel this year. By moving to a single network and a central point of control, not only can businesses streamline processes but they can more readily react to changing business needs. Now more than ever it is crucial to be able to adapt to new environments. With UC, it becomes much easier for managers to do this to not only give more staff access to information and applications but to also improve the quality of the customer journey, increase loyalty, sales and profit.
 Ovum, 2013, The Future of Unified Communications & Collaboration