Voice Makes a Comeback!

Lee Bryant, Managing Director, Sesui, outlines how Cloud telephony is transforming the humble telephone from an unsung commodity to an indispensable business tool.

It will surprise many to learn that the telephone remains consumers’ preferred means of contacting businesses. Online, digital and social channels may have redrawn the landscape of global communications, but research repeatedly reveals that nothing quite beats human-to-human dialogue over the phone. Yet, over the past decade, the perceived value of telephony in UK businesses appears to have diminished. Organisations have made it increasingly difficult for customers to make direct contact over the phone, opting instead to channel communications through email, web mail, online chat tools and even social media. A 2016 CallCentre.co.uk survey of multichannel communications reveals that 72% of people still prefer customer contact via the telephone making the digital approach seem to be at odds with businesses’ oft-quoted commitment to customer-centricity. Since telephone dialogue is often the final, pivotal conclusion of the sales or customer service process, incremental moves away from telephony appear all the more perplexing. Thankfully, however, the pendulum is swinging back the other way. Voice is making a comeback.

The advent of Cloud telephony is putting the telephone back on the map, and giving executives access to real-time metrics that were previously out of reach. In the process, telephony – for so long a barely-noticed and functional part of the office furniture – is finally being recognised as a business tool that supports strategic decision-making. The most proactive organisations are discovering that there are not only value-added alternatives to telecoms ‘establishment’ like BT and Mitel, but better still, they don’t need to rip and replace their legacy systems to enjoy the benefits of Cloud telephony.

Real-time informatics

Many years ago, BT coined its infamous tagline – ‘it’s good to talk’. And they were right. But unfortunately, although it was indeed good to talk, you’d have to wait weeks before you got your bill and the accompanying call metrics were disappointingly basic. Moreover, the delay in correspondence typically meant that call logs were effectively nothing more than an itemised bill while the opportunity to respond to trends or manage activity had long since disappeared into the ether. In that old world, call management activity and transactional data was kept under lock and key by the networks. As a result, evaluating telephone activity was a narrow, retrospective exercise rather than a gateway to insightful business informatics.

Cloud-based telephony has changed all of that. It has unlocked previously elusive call management information and made it freely available to businesses. What’s more, users no longer have to wait weeks to review call activity and assess vital metrics – they can have them in real time to help inform data–driven business decisions.

Every Cloud…

The development of Cloud telephony is a game-changer. It can be leveraged by the full range of business professionals: from the c-suite and senior executives to marketers, operations, shared services and commercial functions. And it’s already being deployed to meet common productivity, efficiency and resourcing challenges across public sector and commercial organisations. For example, in the commercial sector, consumer marketers are using Cloud telephony to measure the real-time response to regional TV advertising campaigns and target crucial marketing resources responsively and effectively. In the healthcare sector, regional 111 services are using the real-time cloud-based metrics to allocate, share and adjust call centre resources in line with fluctuating demand. Moreover, they’re helping to reduce call abandonment and accelerate patient care through the agile optimisation of available resources. Similarly, in the retail sector, call centre operations are pooling resources across large geographic areas, including pan-European, to maintain consistent standards of service, improve customer satisfaction, and offer a service in regions where there might not be a physical presence.

What’s more, real-time call data is not only proving instrumental in improving the customer experience, it’s benefitting employees too. One NHS organisation has successfully managed to retain disenchanted doctors on the verge of early retirement simply by using Cloud telephony to enable home-based tele-health consultations. The implications for patient engagement have been significant, whilst the Clinical Commissioning Group has ensured that the local health economy has not lost valuable knowledge and experience.

Modern-day developments suggest that, as telecommunications slowly go back to the future, voice is finally making a welcome comeback. To make the most of it, businesses would be well advised to pay attention to the voices from above – and sign up to the Cloud.

Ed Says… Hmmmm. As so often happens with an evangelist for newer technology there is an absence of knowledge about how we got to where we are today. For example, how many people, in the age of superfast broadband, actually know what a modem is or even how the word is constructed? How many know what a web log is called today? How many know that even today the likes of Oak Innovation and Tollring have great on site (as well as cloud) real-time informatics solutions –they call them call management systems?

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine