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Unified comms & collaboration beyond COVID-19

5th Nov 2020
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The unified communications market continues to show strong growth. According to a recent report from Brandessence Market Research and Consulting Pvt. Ltd., the global unified communications and collaboration market was valued at US$31.82 Billion in 2018 and is expected to reach US$55.24 Billion by 2025 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2% over the forecast period.

The pandemic has further boosted an already burgeoning market. As analyst, Market Research Future (MRFR), publisher of a report on the global unified communications market (2016-2023), recently observed: “The Unified Communications system is commonly used for seamless work and informed decision-making. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic is offering profitable revenue opportunities as organisations across the globe adopt remote working.”

One of the biggest benefits of UC is its ease of integration. Some businesses have integrated their UC platforms with their contact centre solutions. We are also seeing growing interplay between UC and collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack creating an environment where UC is now a ‘large jigsaw puzzle piece within a bigger picture’. All this has resulted in a new broader technology area: unified communications and collaboration (UCC).

Since lockdown began, UCC has been critical to ensuring continuity of operations for many organisations. It has acted like a virtual glue, binding people, processes and data together. It has allowed businesses to carry on collaborating; sharing information; and organising people in a more efficient way than standard emails and standalone calls could have.

Many businesses already had UCC in place before the pandemic, but the advent of COVID-19 has expanded how they are using it. You have one group who are using the videoconference element within interactions more than they did previously: another group who were using it for instant messaging internally and have now expanded the use of it. But those organisations that have suffered most during COVID-19 were those that were not using UCC at all.

Many found that without it they had a real problem because the only other way they had of contacting people was by email or phone and that can be ‘hit or miss’. They could send an email and not get a response for a day or two. They could call someone and end up leaving a voice mail. That lack of real communication and centralised collaboration almost inevitably results in inefficient processes and poor decision-making. It is likely that without UCC, some organisations that could otherwise have done well, simply wouldn’t have survived.

Tools to deliver customer service success

Looking ahead to the new remote working reality, contact centres and customer service operations will increasingly rely on teams of home-based workers. The pandemic has shown you can have customer service staff at home working remotely successfully and happily. They can avoid the journey to the office and they have more flexibility around the hours they can work. For the employee, that means better engagement; for the business lower churn and a reduction in training and in office costs.

In this new environment, UCC will be increasingly critical to business success and we see a range of features that will be key to driving it. Presence technology will play a crucial role for companies going forward. When looking to achieve UCC within a business, ‘presence’ is perhaps one of the most under-valued tools that can be utilised. To most, it’s just a quick way of instantly “pinging” a short message to an employee or client. Yet, when we look at how customer service works in various leading organisations, with a ‘skills directory’ often available, showing who in the organisation is best at solving certain enquiries, the true value of presence quickly becomes more clear.

Joining the dots

This capability is typically founded on skill-based routing. It relies on the contact centre agent being able to use pre-set criteria to identify people within the organisation that have an interaction history with the customer, as well as those with the relevant skills to answer their query. The final ‘presence’ element is deciding which of those individuals able to answer the question is online right now and then instant messaging them to ask: are they free to jump on a call?

This is at the heart of the concept of the connected enterprise, with customer interactions readily triaged out to the available person best able to help in either the middle or back office or outside the business. These so-called networked individuals will often have specialised expertise in areas from  IT to engineering to negotiation, and also the freedom to make decisions, which they can bring to bear to help customers resolve their problems more quickly.

Video conferencing will also be increasingly crucial, in helping to demonstrate and sell products, in diagnosing faults with electrical equipment and putting forward solutions and in facilitating patient consultations with doctors.

We expect to see all these features come increasingly to the fore through the current crisis and beyond. UCC has been gaining traction as the benefits it can bring businesses have become increasingly clear. The pandemic in this context is merely a catalyst, shining a clearer light on these benefits and accelerating take-up of these technologies still further.

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