Productivity? Look to the cloud
Take a look around Real Business this month and one word pops up everywhere – productivity. And there’s good reason. For small businesses in particular, the availability of low cost, productivity-boosting applications for almost every business process offers a fast and affordable means of adding to your bottom line.
When those applications are combined with cloud access, the benefits are compounded. The advantages of the cloud are now widely understood and businesses in all sectors are saving costs using cloud services that replace hardware, maintenance and management whilst also accelerating the speed of business with “anywhere, anytime” ease of web-based access. In this way, the cloud truly empowers business managers with control of costs and efficiency gains.
Is your phone system limiting your growth opportunities?
What many business do not understand is that in simple terms cloud-based telecoms, or hosted-telephony, is basically a cloud app, offering all the same benefits – cost savings, efficiency and control. When it comes to impact on business efficiency, though, the “control” capability of a cloud phone system is exceptional in delivering game-changing results that help reshape the working practices, processes and productivity of your team.
For many businesses, still using traditional telecoms based on an office-based phone system, the association between telephony and control is difficult to imagine. Typically, the operation of such systems relies on the technical support of an outsourced service provider that takes control of system performance, “moves and changes”, upgrades, maintenance and, if available, usage analytics reports.
Maintenance often means dealing with faults and “escalation” of technical issues to a third-party vendor, by which time service levels are breached and the business is placed at risk. To complete the picture, this “break-fix” approach usually results in a technician attending on site, incurring even more time and cost. Even the business continuity strategies and disaster recovery solutions designed to mitigate the worst risks are often managed by specialist providers, distancing these critical policies from the business manager and weakening control.
Powerful management capabilities
In short, traditional phone systems lack the functionality and limit the control available to the business manager who wants to develop efficiencies on the back of the communications system. By contrast, cloud phone systems give the business innovative features and direct control of their implementation, empowering the manager to introduce slick new processes and improve employee performance, all managed autonomously through a simple web-based dashboard.
The management benefits of cloud phone systems can be summarised into five key areas.
With a cloud system the business manager is not beholden to the timescales and delays so often incurred by external service providers. This means a faster response to changes such as office moves, new extensions and the scalability required to accommodate the changing demands of employees. Equally, the manager can provide a near instant response to fluctuating market conditions and subsequent promotional campaigns that are requested invariably at short notice in order to gain competitive advantage. Ultimately, if the manager is absent, control can be passed to colleagues by assigning permissions for access at different levels in the organisation.
The reports and insight afforded by historical records held by cloud phone systems are invaluable to monitoring the behaviour and productivity of both staff and customers. In turn, these metrics can be related to key performance indicators and the allocation of skills and resources. Real-time analytics associated with call frequency and outcomes are the lifeblood of sales managers and contact centre supervisors responsible for motivating teams and meeting targets whilst also measuring quality of the customer experience.
Over recent years there has been a step change in the expectations of customers regarding communication channels and response time. Customers expect more personalisation, more “touch points” with the supplier and less time on the phone. By integrating with other applications, cloud phones give the business the control it needs to meet customer demands for “omnichannel” communications across voice, social media, messaging and so on. Additional integration between the phone system and the customer database also gives the operator control over customer information through screen pops, alerts and knowledge bases to provide a more intelligent customer interaction.
Cloud phones offer intelligent call routing that provides control over the destination and prioritisation of inbound calls to optimise response from a limited employee resource. Combined with IVR (interactive voice response), call routing ensures callers have rapid access to the people and places they need, bypassing busy numbers and rerouting at busy times of day. If your sales are seasonally driven, cloud phone will let you scale up connections to additional staff for the busy period, scale down when it’s over and, in between, prioritise calls that keep your supply chain intact.
Based on software and intelligent cloud infrastructure, cloud phone systems offer a fertile platform for innovation and development of new features to exert control from your communications. A typical example is the use of Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC) that allows the integration of communications channels on the web. Customers accessing a web site can be invited to call from a single-click button, delivering the call to the service associated with the web page and accompanied by a host of web analytics data into the CRM system directly.
Rafael Cortes is head of marketing at Foehn.
This extension of cloud phone capabilities with control across the entire customer experience presents exciting opportunities for the future. For more details of how cloud phone systems can give you more control of your business operations, visit www.foehn.co.uk and download the Buyers Guide: Reclaiming Control with Cloud Phone Systems.