While vendors tout multiple benefits for Unified Communications (UC), many IT managers struggle to apply vendor claims for benefits to their own company business processes when considering UC solutions. With so many potential areas for savings I find the best way to justify UC is to clearly identify communication bottlenecks and decide which groups of workers can take advantage of its many applications. To better understand how end users experience using UC, Forrester recently surveyed 444 key network and telecom decision makers on the benefits they received from deploying UC. The top rated benefit by 62% of respondents was the improved collaboration between dispersed teams attributed to presence. This is especially important for remote workers and frequent travelers.
The next most frequently cited benefit by 46% of respondents was UC enabled faster problem resolution. For managers who must resolve issues across multiple locations, this is a major benefit and can be applied to virtually every type of industry. Regardless of industry, most companies realize that internal delays cost money and ultimately affect customer service. When building your UC business case use actual examples from employees who must contend with delayed and missed communications on a daily basis.
Although external cost justification sources provide guidelines, the most realistic estimates of UC savings needs to come from future users of UC who can fairly accurately determine the value of its benefits. However, if you do not measure the before and after results, these benefits may go unnoticed and your savings may not be fully recognized. Employees who have implemented UC are typically its most ardent supporters, as many UC users tell me they would not want to communicate without its many capabilities within their work environment.
I have been getting several inquiries asking if speech analytics is a replacement for quality monitoring software in contact centers. Speech analytics is a valuable tool for monitoring your customer’s experience when dialing into your contact centers or using the IVR, as it provides the ability to mine, analyze, and understand customer conversations. It is a valuable tool for companies to quickly identify and understand what is on their customer’s mind. However, it serves a different purpose than quality monitoring that records customer conversations and is used for coaching agents or for compliance and recording of customer calls. Quality monitoring is best used for improving the agent’s performance, and speech analytics is optimized for understanding customer concerns and attitudes. They are complementary applications, and one does not replace the need for the other.
Propelled by the adoption of IP telephony, more contact center managers are getting serious about ramping up their home agent program. Many pilots for home agents are now expanding into larger agent populations and compelling companies to take a closer look at its benefits and risks. Forrester’s 2010 survey of contact center decision makers found that 35% of companies had plans for expanding their home agent program during the next 12 months.
I think to successfully augment contact center operations with home based agents you need to take the proper precautionary steps to ensure a secure environment for both workers’ and customers’ data, have adequate help desk support available during all shifts and establish clear guidelines for managers of remote agents. Forrester clients with home agents report positive benefits, such as improving their recruitment opportunities, attracting higher educated and more experienced workers, and lowering their absenteeism and attrition rates. However, there are also concerns regarding the management of home agents, such as more time troubleshooting for PC problems and less visibility on their after call work activities. I believe these factors can be reduced by appointing a virtual support team to supervise remote agents and providing them with easy access during working hours to subject matter and technical experts who can deliver immediate support for the more complex issues.
Although it has taken awhile for this sector of the market to heat up, communications-as-a-service (CaaS) is generating serious attention. Currently, it is a small market, with few vendors offering complete product offerings in the area of unified communications and contact centers but this will most likely change, as Forrester’s recent survey of decision makers in NA and Europe indicate a major interest in buying communications-as-a-service (CaaS) in the future. I believe that current budget restraints, limited IT expertise and unwillingness to undertake large capital expenditures is a driving force for this shift in buying behaviors.
Currently 3% of Network and Telecom decision makers deploy UC as a service. Additionally, for contact centers only 2% use the CaaS model today (with IVR as a major exception). However, 23% of decision makers stated they would consider both UC and contact centers as a cloud based service in the future. This uptake in interest to use cloud services for communications may be a response to the general market acceptance of cloud services for other cloud services such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a service (IaaS) solutions that help companies better manage their IT expenses.
According to the recent Forrester Enterprise And SMB Networks And Telecommunications Survey, North America And Europe, Q1 2009, 32% of the 279 network and telecommunications managers surveyed indicated they planned to upgrade their IVR in the next 12 months. Before a decision is made, companies need to consider their options for upgrading their IVR and compare the differences between premise based and network based voice portals. Voice portals are standard based platforms that support multiple speech or touch tone applications. Forrester’s survey indicates 22% of companies plan to add speech applications this year to improve automation of customer transactions and provide better customer service.
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