One of the most important considerations for businesses, as they strive to squeeze out efficiencies and become more competitive, is understanding that to be truly relevant and appealing for customers and staff, they need an intelligent business communications platform. This implies the ability to adapt and react based on real-time insights.
Driven by these requirements, we are likely to see several trends that are already gaining traction to gather even more momentum over the next few years:
Head in the cloud
Those organisations moving their business communications to the cloud stand to benefit from instant cost savings, flexibility and control. They can further enable omnichannel communications, allowing employees to work from anywhere, with any device either with voice , text or chat. This has become especially prevalent in the past year, with the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating business cloud adoption.
Switching to the cloud allows for integration with contacts, calendars and other customer relationship management systems for better quality conversations. Ensuring the customer journey throughout the business is easy and that the touchpoints are pleasant are at the heart of having an intelligent communication platform.
Where does an intelligent business communication platform start? It begins with the identity of the person – you’d like to detect your customer’s identity as soon as they contact you, and greet them by name, accurately. This simple move changes the tone of the engagement. Then, if you’ve had past conversations with that user, you want to be able to have immediate access to that context to ensure you have all the insight you need to delight the customer.
The use of Open APIs further allows companies to leverage more of the applications available in the cloud, such as high-end analytics, including transcriptions and voice sentiment analysis. This powerful capability immediately enhances a business’s intelligence.
Breaking down silos
Historically, various systems were handled in silos. Many customer relationship management (CRM) systems can deal with various channels elegantly, just not audio, whereas cloud-based PBX solutions can deal with all channels but still need to communicate effectively with CRM solutions, so there is a balancing act. The thinking over the next few years is going to be around fusing these silos.
Until now, most business communication was over voice and email. Those days are gone, and to be relevant today a business needs to have the capacity to handle voice and email, but also the high-pace environment of video and chat functionality on social media and the web. These channels all need to work in harmony.
Traditional office-based working models were disrupted by the pandemic. There will likely be increasing permanence of working from anywhere, where companies look at a full-time blended, or hybrid, working model. This necessitates an increased reliance on mobile-first applications and so as businesses seek to develop intelligent platforms, this thinking needs to be considered at the get-go, from the planning phase.
Automation, which is crucial for scale, could be self-help, easy-to-use applications, or bot-aided assistance for customers, and it may well be that a business needs to automate its business-to-business processes simultaneously.
In fact, many customers prefer digital interactions in the first instance. One can reference findings from research around the world where people are happy to deal with self-help and bot assistance. The key, though, is allowing the functionality – at any stage of the process – to hand off to a real person when the user has a complex issue to solve.
There’s little use investing in FAQs and automated chatbots, but when a complex issue arises, the customer must insert text and wait – the issue is present, they have invested the time, and they need the problem to be dealt with then and there with a warm body.
As time goes on, we will see more and more of this capability emerging. Some sectors, such as financial services, have made great strides in their self-service models but few allow an instant transfer to a human agent. This is due to a systems gap, and it requires a host of backend investments not least leveraging the capabilities of the cloud, but the result is an automated process, with the option of human touch on demand, all by design.
Increased reliance on integrated systems inclusive of the communications platform
Over the next few years, we will see an increased reliance on operational support systems to enable a seamless digital journey for a customer. At the moment, this function is limited by historical and on-premise legacy architectures. A technological leapfrog needs to occur for businesses to truly unlock the power of these support systems.
That leap forward to embrace technology, and specifically the cloud, will see high-end cloud feature sets democratise the customer journey landscape and reduce reliance on premise-based contact centres. Cloud applications allow businesses to enjoy the types of features in general communications solutions that were previously the preserve of high-end contact centres.
Increased reliance on cloud security
With South Africa being one of the most targeted countries worldwide in terms of cyberthreats, there is an ever-increasing reliance on cloud services provider to ensure strong cloud security, which includes secure authentication and all the tools to deal with malware; they also want the ability to integrate their communications platform with other enterprise systems with accessible, yet secure, API’s.
By David Meintjes, CEO at Telviva