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Unified Communications Magazine July 2007                                                                                                                Volume 1 / Number 1



The Customer is Right

By Erik Linask, Sounding Off


As TMC launches Unified Communications, one of the things that I marvel at is the disparity between different people's definitions of Unified Communications. Depending on which service provider, vendor, or customer you ask, their definitions are likely to vary as greatly as the weather each day in New England. Largely, of course, that’s due to their own needs - what they market, what they develop, what they use internally.

Those differing theories, which are only natural with new technology, foster the competition that helps drive acceptance and the development of increasing numbers of alternative products and solutions and peripheral offerings. When you factor in the various types and sizes of businesses, the potential exists for many, many solutions to the same dilemma.

I recently spent several days with the folks at UK mobile operator O2, and one of the things that impressed me was O2's heavy focus on customer satisfaction and retention - and it is what has brought O2 to the top of the most competitive mobile market in the world. Most carriers - certainly the major U.S. carriers - are perceived to care more about new customer acquisition than subscriber retention, and though some might argue that, it is immaterial, since perception outweighs reality.

In terms of customer satisfaction, second only to the actual service quality is the quality of customer service. Indeed, at some point, it's a safe bet that most customers will have cause to make that dreaded call to the customer service center. When that happens, the rate of first call resolution is a critical factor in the overall success of that call center operation, and the overall success of the organization as a whole, and that is what has helped O2 climb in the ranks.

How is this relevant? A few weeks ago, I moderated a Webinar sponsored by Zeacom, which specializes in UC solutions for call centers, when it occurred to me that high percentage of businesses have yet to consider the value of unified communications to their call center operations. But, the truth is that, while most unified communications products and solutions have been developed with the enterprise employee in mind, they have at least as much relevance and value in contact centers.

Many of the same benefits that unified communications solutions bring to mobile workers and other enterprise employees can be extended to the contact center. For instance, customized call handling features based on time of day, caller ID, and other factors, combined with presence management capabilities, for instance, can significantly enhance first call resolution rates and customer satisfaction. The solutions that are available today combine such call handling capabilities with other multimedia, IVR, unified messaging, and caller profile features. Together, the pieces fall into place to help make the first point of contact for a customer with your call center a productive one.

Whether your business has fewer than a dozen users or several thousand, whether you have a dedicated contact center or a few employees all handling customer calls as part of their many duties, solutions like Communications Center are worth a look. Importantly, while solving customer problems must be a priority, without buy-in from employees, it is difficult to make any new program a success. Fortunately, the benefits of unified communications extend both inward to your agents and other employees, as well as outward to the mobile workers and customers, making it easy to win buy-in. After all, who would argue against a solution that makes his job easier?

When it comes right down to it, though they may not sit in front of customers, call center agents possess the power to define the face of the business. Because of the relationship of the call center agent to the customer, and the satisfaction of that customer to the success of the business, it’s hard to imagine why businesses wouldn't ensure they have the tools at their disposal to create an environment that fosters customer satisfaction above all else. Today, that means, at the very least, considering the benefits unified communications offers your business. The customer is not only right, after all; he is also the only thing that matters.

Erik Linask is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY, IMS Magazine, and Unified Communications.


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