Companies need to look at internet-based communications to transform their operations. Internet Protocol – or IP – communications provide businesses with tools and capabilities for making business processes work better, and connect everyone in and organisation to collaborate, identify and implement business process improvements.
It is not often that a real opportunity comes along for dramatically transforming the way you do business – making it more cohesive, effective, productive and profitable, all with a single approach. But such an opportunity is now within the reach of almost any business.
This opportunity for improving business processes comes from a new development that both simplifies and enhances business communications in many significant ways. It involves putting phone calls on the same IP network as email and other data communications. This bridges the gap between two hitherto separate worlds of communication, linking your phone with your computer, your voice mail with your email,and enabling new ways to sort, mix and manage information and communications on a single network.
By integrating telephone systems with the technology of the Internet – Internet Protocol, or IP – companies can now give employees a new set of powerful communications tools that are as easy to use as email and the World Wide Web. These new communications tools have arrived on the scene just in time to answer the call of businesses that are grappling with the new realities of the global economy. They provide easy and economical ways of sharing information to make quicker decisions. They help businesses and individuals communicate efficiently with suppliers, customers, partners and other collaborators. They meet the needs of a mobile workforce, making everyone in the organisation accessible anywhere and at any time.
The business case for moving to an integrated IP communications solution is irrefutable. The challenge facing businesspeople today is how to rethink their business processes and strategies to make the most of these innovations. Every business has innumerable processes to help get things done. These processes may be as simple as a list of mobile phone numbers kept by receptionists so that customers can keep in touch with key people when they don’t answer their phones, or they can be as elaborate as the tools used by a contact centre to ensure that customer queries are directed to the correct agent first time.
Hundreds of business processes such as these, in almost every aspect of any operation, need to be reconsidered in light of the new possibilities that are made possible using IP communications.
Many organisations hope they can achieve improvements in their business processes by making technology investments in products such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and similar software. The problem with this approach is that although the software may provide a company with better information about its operations, it doesn’t necessarily make it easier for employees to collaborate and communicate with each other to share information and act upon it.
IP communications fills these gaps and in the process create improvements that increases the effectiveness of previous business process improvement investments. Organisations need to look at how they do things now, what they want to achieve and how they can improve their processes to achieve their goals more successfully. In many cases, technology may provide the means to do this, but it should never become an end in itself.
A good starting point for seeing how IP communications can transform business processes is to ask how your business would change if everyone were in one location. Imagine you had a company of 25 people all working in the same office. You answer the phone and there is a key customer on the line with a question you can’t answer.
You know that there are two or three people in the company who have the information the customer needs. All you need to do is stand up, look around to see if they’re there and whether they are busy. If one of them is free, you simply signal to them to pick up the phone or you simply ask them for the information you need.
If they are busy and the customer call is important enough, you have the option of walking over to their desk and interrupting them. It is likely that in this environment you will be able to provide the customer with first contact resolution – linking them immediately and directly with the person or information they need – leaving the customer satisfied and allowing you to move on.
This first contact resolution is the key to business success and typically provides small businesses with a strong competitive advantage. Now consider what happens in a company with a workforce scattered around different locations, perhaps in different parts of building or some people working remotely.
The two or three people with the information you need are not in the same office. You have no idea whether they are in their offices, on the road or on holiday. You have to tell the customer you’ll get back to them. You try calling people who might help and you get voicemail for each one. You send emails, but you don’t know when or if they will respond.
Maybe you can reach them through instant messaging or maybe they’ll see the message on their Blackberries. You might get lucky, but you could spend a day or two playing telephone tag before you finally get an answer to the customer’s question. Then you need to call the customer back, which could result in another round of telephone tag. The customer gets frustrated and your other tasks have been put on hold by a slew of phone calls, voice messages and emails – all because of a simple question that should have been answered in thirty seconds.
In many businesses this cycle happens every day. On the other hand, with an IP communications solution in place you’re able to answer the same questions and resolve customer issues in the moment and with first call resolution.