Rumours of the demise of the telephone are, like a certain recent Oscar celebration, somewhat premature. Across all UK sectors, telephony remains the primary channel for customer communications, as well as being a largely untapped source of vital business intelligence.
Yet the link between UK business and the 2017 Oscars goes beyond an A-List simile. Countless companies miss out on getting the Best Picture of what’s going on in their organisations by failing to exploit modern telephony solutions that could unlock vital performance metrics and inform strategy. So, perhaps it’s time to push the envelope. Forget the stars – aim for the cloud instead.
Cloud telephony has more than arrived in the UK – it’s on the rise. Recent figures from the Cavell Group show that the Hosted VoIP Telephony market – also known as cloud telephony – grew by 11% in 2016, maintaining the impressive upward trajectory of recent years.
The increase coincides with the continued decline of premise-based telephony, exemplified by Toshiba’s 2016 exit from the UK market.
Analysts predict that the growth of cloud telephony will continue in 2017 as companies migrate additional applications into the cloud and look to maximise opportunities for real-time customer intelligence.
So why is cloud telephony becoming a star attraction? The notion that it brings efficiency and productivity gains is not up for debate; the operational benefits of applying cloud technology across all business functions is now widely accepted.
However, the specific benefits of cloud telephony go beyond improving processes and saving money, they extend into the crucial arena of business intelligence.
Cloud telephony provides companies with a new lens on business performance, unlocking real-world insight into customer and workforce behaviours that organisations have not previously been able to see.
Through the application of simple cloud-based systems, companies can capture, access and interpret call data in real time, allowing them to track, identify and respond to trends dynamically and quickly.
Additionally, since the telephone system is managed centrally in the cloud, organisations can reallocate resources responsively and flex capacity across multiple locations.
This combination of real-time metrics and operational agility can empower responsive decision-making, improve the customer experience and drive profitability. Moreover, it provides a tangible business value that traditional on-premise solutions have typically failed to deliver.
The journey into business intelligence is uncharted water for telephony. Historically, companies have only had access to basic metrics for call activity; data on call volume, identity, date, time and duration.
This type of management information has been driven by telephony vendors, who have dictated the metrics their systems can provide, rather than collaborating with clients to provide the metrics their businesses need.
The approach has culminated in management information that enables limited analytics with very narrow tactical applications. Worse still, with commercial teams now accustomed to – and indeed expecting – more sophisticated analytics in the digital age, traditional telephony metrics appear primitive by comparison. It undermines the value of voice communication.
>See also: 8 predictions for business networks in 2017
Thankfully, the advent of cloud telephony has changed the game, transforming capability from the retrospective analysis of historical calls, to the prospect of responsive decision-making and predictive analytics based on real-time data.
In the process, the telephone has transitioned from a familiar, functional tool into a genuine driver of competitive advantage.
So what does all this mean? In a busy call centre environment, access to real-time data can help companies understand demand and plan resourcing requirements accurately and efficiently.
Staffing models can be based on real world data and minute-by-minute trends. The most sophisticated solutions capture callers’ geo-locational data, allowing teams – from marketing and sales departments right through to emergency services contact centres – to plan and flex resources in line with fluctuating regional demand.
Real-time data also allows organisations to manage capacity; companies can set up thresholds so that when call queues reach a pre-determined level, an alert is issued to enlist back-up resources from other departments to manage demand.
The same methodology can be used to monitor ‘lost’ calls, triggering contingency procedures when an agreed threshold is reached. These kinds of metrics, supported by the automated escalation of an appropriate response, not only help sustain a healthy customer experience, they can ensure organisations maintain both internal and customer SLAs.
Cloud telephony can also help companies monitor employee productivity and performance, as well as provide scope for remote working. Call recording and reporting give managers greater visibility and control of employee performance, helping to inform training needs and address issues proactively before call targets and SLAs are missed.
What’s more, with the various departments across every organisation each having different requirements and SOPs, cloud telephony enables companies to design individual telephone systems to support each function – safe in the knowledge that they are all connected to, and managed by, a single, centralised system in the Cloud. It’s efficient, cost-effective and responsive to users’ needs.
The theory of everything
So how can organisations go from limited metrics to a telephony environment that’s as good as it gets? The solution is a collective responsibility. The most progressive companies have started by facilitating a collaborative, cross-functional discussion to establish the diverse business requirements of departments across their enterprise – identifying the touchpoints where telephony contributes to business operations, and asking how they could be improved.
The challenge for all stakeholders is to determine what they need from their telephone system or, at the very least, open a dialogue that examines what is possible. With cloud technology allowing a wide array of applications to be layered onto the most basic systems, the possibilities are far broader than many might think.
As telephony moves into the domain of business intelligence, and proactive organisations maximise it in search of innovative ways to improve the customer experience, businesses should consider the metrics they need to drive improvements.
What should you be measuring? Are you measuring the right things, or simply accepting the metrics your existing telephony provider has foisted upon you?
Cloud telephony allows companies to tailor systems that suit individual business requirements, rather than rely on one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t reflect their real-world needs. The most successful companies will work with a trusted telecoms partner to help them design and deliver the optimal solution.
Silver linings playbook
In a world where customer experience has been described as the next competitive battleground, cloud telephony could provide an easy win in the battle for competitive advantage. The companies that embrace it will have the right results delivered – and be rewarded with the Best Picture.
Sourced by Lee Bryant, managing director, Sesui