New Lessons

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

The business

world is on a quest to break down information silos, and for good reason-more

people will have access to critical knowledge, they can collaborate, work

smarter, and react faster to market and business changes.


But what if silos aren't just around

information; what if they are around people themselves? What if the entire

communication infrastructure, instead of connecting people, creates a fractured,

inefficient environment for getting things done? Experience has shown that the

more systems require to establish contact, the harder it becomes to actually pin

someone down for collaboration or knowledge sharing. Having tools that can help

identify when those types of interactions are required, based on past customer

and call volume history; monitoring quality of those collaborative interactions,

and ensuring that right resources are available to handle those interactions are


Unified communications (UC), worthy

successor of unified messaging, is an enterprise's way of removing silos around

its people. For this reason, many companies are beginning to adopt wide scale UC

strategies; and major software vendors like Microsoft have lent credibility and

stature to the effort. Creating an enterprise wide UC strategy is as much art as

science, because it forces every company to ask (and answer) critical questions

about internal business processes and workflows. Unified communications allows a

company to build a structure for connecting people, through the adoption of

presence and availability-awareness tools.


It does not, and cannot, stop there,

because there are two key variables implicit in building a creative UC strategy

that many companies overlook. One is the customer-along with tools, the customer

uses to connect to the company. The second is the contact center, where agents

can use the UC infrastructure to boost and extend effectiveness of the customer

experience. Beyond the contact center itself, extension of presence awareness to

other employees- represents a chance to use the company's larger employee base

as a reservoir of knowledge, that contact center agents can use in real-time.

People with relevant expertise, outside the contact center, can become part of

the knowledge pool, that can be tapped during the customer interaction. This is

where performance optimization technologies present a unique opportunity to

extend UC practices enterprise wide.

Hidden Benefits

As it turns out, basic elements of what we now call unified communications,

are part of standard operating procedures for any contact center. Unlike

traditional office workers sitting at desks, contact center agents sign in and

out of their phone system. The automatic call distributor (ACD) has always

included a 'state management' function, that tracks whether the agent is on a

call, between calls, available to take a call, or logged in but unavailable.

These are clearly analogous to what we see in modern instant messaging and

presence tools, which are the core of unified communications.

When we extend what's already being used

inside the contact center with tools that are becoming widespread in rest of the

enterprise, we find common elements and synergies that were unforeseen.


This valuable relationship between

company's subject matter experts and contact center is often overlooked. UC

strategies typically focus on productivity benefits of communications

technologies. It's just as important (and valuable) to include tangible and

intangible benefits that accrue to the organization and its customer

relationships, when enterprise knowledge workers fall within the contact

center's sight lines.

UC can be used to provide contact center

representatives. With an expert base they can call for specialized information

during the customer contact. A customer might call with a problem not typically

encountered by the service center. After searching the established knowledge

base, agent needs a contact center setup, that can seamlessly inter-operate with

UC applications to identify potential experts within the organization, who can

quickly provide guidance-such as a suggestion to ask the customer a key

question, or other useful bits of advice. In a supportive environment, this can

make all the difference between escalating a case (and taking hours or days to

close it), and solving the problem on the first call.

Therefore, UC strategy has to include more

than just presence and availability. It has to reach a bit further, to include

some element of meta-information about each person's skill set and knowledge

base. That is what makes each person in the organization potentially relevant to

the customer interaction on an ad hoc basis.


A successful UC strategy will yield

measurable improvement in the key contact center performance metrics- like first

call resolution, increase sales, higher collections rates, and customer

satisfaction. These are accompanied by intangible benefits that accrue to the

company overall, such as reduced customer churn, that is not necessarily a

normal part of UC deployment strategy.

Performance Optimization Apps

In addition to straightforward UC tools, there are ways to leverage existing

contact center applications to enhance the overall enterprise UC strategy. When

you begin to understand how many of today's best practices in enterprise UC

already exist in a contact center, you start to appreciate how all sorts of

performance optimization practices benefit and improve overall business

communications. And it is these applications, that can provide difference

between success and failure of a company's UC strategy.

What makes the contact center so uniquely

positioned to propel deployment of UC outward-is concentration of performance

optimization technologies already in use.


They can complement a UC strategy, and

help the contact center effectively schedule knowledge workers across the

enterprise; determine availability to support customer interactions, or monitor

these interactions to drive improvements in customer care.

The three agent-facing applications

directly involved are:

  • Workforce management
  • Contact recording and quality

  • Performance management

Workforce management plays a key role in scheduling these experts in short

time slots, based on expected call volumes, which help reduce overuse of

knowledge workers, who are still trying to do their 'day job'-a big concern of

any UC strategy.

Quality monitoring and recording, speech analytics, and performance

management tools function in a similar way; although they have a somewhat

delayed effect, because their results are not usually handled in real-time.

Nevertheless, by integrating their aggregated knowledge of skill gaps and

expectations, along with near real-time reports of actual performance—to-goals,

these tools provide a way to use presence in the contact center to extend

quality management across the enterprise; and ultimately ensure a positive

customer experience.

Contact center tools are in midst of a historic period of integration, which

seems to be happening in parallel with the development of UC related

applications, largely based on the common need across the enterprise, and for

the contact center to reduce complexity and costs. In conjunction with this

trend, many of the systems that keep track of agents and customers, are having

their data streams pooled together and analyzed for the first time. This is

helping companies identify patterns to understand why customers call, and how to

control the interaction to make each connection as helpful (and profitable) as

possible. And, these tight integrations between various contact center

applications are making it easier to manage agent behavior, through a more

careful oversight of individual performance. Connecting training to workforce

management-allows agents to improve skills in specific areas — at precisely the

moment when taking training doesn't interfere with customer assistance.


In the very near future, the term 'unified communications' will be redundant.

All communications will be unified and seamless throughout an organization. Our

present concept of UC is the one in which we link together disparate streams of

connectivity, through clever ideas like visual, voice mail, text-to-speech,

emails, instant messaging, and collaborative web conferencing.

Most critical aspect of this evolution is that it needs to be managed so as

to not create a higher tech version of the isolated individual worker, totally

plugged in, and yet working solo. The ideal strategy is to use contact center as

the test case for making UC practical and transparent. With it's vast experience

in connectivity, presence, and availability management; and it's established

knowledge of performance best practices, it sets the bar and provides the

metrics for deployment company wide

Rajeev Soni

The author is GM, South Asia & Middle East, Aspect