How important is Unified Communication and do the present systems offer that seamlessly?
The business landscape has witnessed a radical transformation in the last decade. Two most noted developments have been:
1. The unprecedented rise of remote workers. Research body Gartner has stated that the number of remote workers has shot up and will continue to increase further at an average compounded rate of 4.4% every year.
Quoting an extract from an article published in Business News Daily - ''The number of employees who are, or have at one point in their career, worked at least one day a month from home has grown by more than 300 percent in the past years. In 2015, 37 percent of employees said they had worked remotely at one point in their career, compared to 30 percent in 2006.''
2. Consumers are stricken with smartphone-induced ADD. They interact through multiple devices over several channels (web, email, social networks, text messaging, and voice) to complete a single task. So they post a query on the Facebook page, fill out a form in the website, compare products at a showroom, buy through a mobile app, email to the company's support portal and call up the help-desk executive. In short, they initiate a conversation or task in one medium, and complete it across a series of mediums.
Both the aforementioned factors have acted as catalysts and given birth to the importance of Unified Communication that empowers staff to collaborate in real-time with - each other, customers, partners and the entire ecosystem of the company.
How many businesses have achieved Unified Communication?
While most companies are aware of the importance of unified communication, very few have been successful to embrace and implement this trend. Reason being that there are shortage of players in the UC (unified communication) space. Starting from the big names to exciting upstarts – the software market is flooded with them. But many of these do not naturally integrate with each other.
Functioning as strict standalone applications, they trap the communication within their individual databases and force the staff to operate in watertight departments and siloes. These applications can be integrated with each other with specific efforts but of course, there is an inherent cost associated with transitioning them from standalone systems to unified and integrated.
Quoting the words of Tim Olenski – ''Achieving unified communication has become the 'holy grail' for all companies. While few renowned larger enterprises have achieved it, unified communication has taken far longer than expected time to become a practical reality for the small and medium sized businesses. The reason of the delay has been the high cost of integrating the standalone technologies.''
So is there a ray of hope for the small businesses? Or do they need to bear the exorbitant cost of cobbling together these discrete or best of breed systems?
In a stark contrast to the old traditional CRMs that behaved as basic contact management software, new-age CRMs have been given the title of a Complete Business Management Platform that fosters unified communication. They offer a bunch of modules, features and functionalities that is equipped enough to manage the entire operations. Large to small and medium-sized businesses can use a new-age CRM and streamline all data, activities and communication within one centralized repository.
New-age CRM provides four essential capabilities that makes it a unified communication system:
1. Email: New-age CRMs have in-built email functionality. Some leading ones also offer additional integration with Gmail and Microsoft Outlook - the most common email clients used by businesses across the globe.
2. Real time communication: New-age CRMs have come up with a new 'Feeds' section that carries instant messaging capabilities. A separate tool for managing impromptu conversations and real time communication is, therefore not required.
3. Telephony: New-age CRM allows users to make calls directly from the application itself. Voicemails are also available within the software. Click on the call icon appears besides every contact number and clicking on it initiate calls directly from the CRM.
4. Calendars: Well-designed calendar sections are common to all new-age CRMs. Synchronizing calendar entries of Google/Outlook and CRMs are made easy with calendar synchronization feature. Update of entries in Google/Outlook Calendar automatically reflects in the CRM calendar and vice versa.
Benefits of using CRM as a Unified Communication Solution
1. Cost Savings: The initial investment in CRM can seem overwhelming, but it turns out to be cost-effective in the long-run. For instance, businesses get the power to avail email and telephony - the two most important communication tools from a single entity. So hardware and software costs are typically reduced.
Also New-Age CRMs are cloud-based. This leads to greater savings because hosted services are less expensive than deploying and managing on-premise systems.
2. Increased Employee Productivity: CRM provides access to all communication tools (email, calendar, telephony, feeds) in a single interface. This offers a major productivity boost. For instance, users do not have to waste time in accessing multiple applications for checking email, calling customers, making appointments, conducting meetings or collaborating with team members. Each and every activity takes place in one interface.
3. Greater Work Flexibility: CRM empowers employees to work from anywhere. So whether there is chaos in the city, kids are home sick or an emergency has come up during vacation, sales, marketing and customer service professionals can use the CRM anywhere to - carry out their activities, access crucial updated data from the repository and interact with customers/team members/partners.
This means employees can be just as productive at home or in a hotel room as in the office. Needless to say, this leads to improved employee morale and greater flexibility in hiring employees positioned across different geographic locations.
4. Quick Decision-making: CRM fosters unified communication which in turn provides real-time visibility and improves the speed of decision making. By accessing all the crucial data in a snap from practically any location, time and device - employees are better informed and can make faster decisions, based on accurate data.
5. Wow the Customers: The most crucial benefit of using CRM as a unified communication solution is seen on Customer Service. Be it sales, marketing or customer support professionals – each one of them can track every single interaction happened with the customers from within the CRM itself.
So whether the customers have made a public complaint on social media, submitted a support ticket or filled an inquiry form in the website – CRM centralizes and orchestrates all mobile, web and contact center interactions that occur throughout the customer journey.
As a consequence of which, it is easy to achieve a 360-degree view of the customers and deliver proactive high quality and better managed customer experiences. Customers do not have to repeat the same issue multiple times or get routed to different representatives. The reps study the customers history to understand the context of the present interaction and immediately address the underlying issues.
Unified communication is imperative to business survival and growth. It is required for self, employees and customers. So what are your thoughts on this?
Few businesses who have realized the value of UC have already ditched the discrete best of breed systems and implemented new-age CRMs to communicate across any and all mediums on any device at any time.
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Patricia is a full-time CRM consultant at ConvergeHub and part-time blogger. She has earned herself quite a fame as a specialist and a market expert in small business CRM software platforms. In the last five years, she has worked with various entrepreneurs to help them move their businesses to cloud. Her expertise lies in offering cloud based...
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what a great article. I believe an efficient and easy-to-use CRM sofware is a must-have these days. Another must-have is - I think - the ability to integrate with your e-mail client (Gmail, Office365, Outlook).
We use Microsoft Outlook in our organization and it broke our hearts when Microsoft stopped support BCM. Since Outlook is our #1 communication platform, we started to look around and we found eWay-CRM, another Outlook plug-in.
Why am I saying this? I like all the modern, fancy-looking software. It may have many sexy features and design but if you want to customize it and do something a little extra, it is not possible.
We like Outlook. Maybe it‘s old fashioned but we are used to it and don't want to change. And our #1 priority is to be able to integrate our CRM with Outlook because it has everything you mentioned - E-mails, Calendar, Contacts. If your CRM adds the missing parts - customization, telephony, mass e-mails - you are there.
What do you think?
Thank you Michael
Yes, the main advantage of an unified platform is the fluidity of how data can move from one information stack to another without having the need to retrain yourself. Likewise, ConvergeHub, a complete Converged CRM for SMB on cloud offers not only a full bidirectional plugin to work with Microsoft Outlook and Office 365, it is also connected with Google apps, MailChimp, QuickBooks and many more hence avoiding the need to login to multiple applications to run your business. You may check them out and I am sure you will be surprisingly amazed how much more you can achieve through CRM.