With information technology pervading virtually all business operations today, I’m guessing that business managers must use the acronym “IT” at least once a day, invariably associated with an innovative or cutting edge business service.
So isn’t it odd that a term so connected with the future is actually stuck in the past. Purists will explain that computer science has evolved from data to information to knowledge and now intelligence, leaving “information technology” feeling bit dated. Perhaps we should redefine IT as “intelligent technology”?
There are good reasons to do so. If the first ten years of this millennium have been about software systems development, the second ten years are very much focused on those systems talking to each other, through integration of systems via the ubiquitous API (application programming interface), to deliver combined productivity output where the total is greater than the sum of the parts. When systems interact, we start seeing a level of intelligence that can transform business processes and the way we work.
Where integration is delivering results
Some of the most impressive examples of integrated, intelligent business services can be seen in the latest cloud phone systems. Gone are the days when a phone system was an isolated, hardware piece located in the office, where the only additional intelligence came from an upgrade board installed by engineers. Today, cloud infrastructure actively encourages integration and communications applications are built for integration from the roots up. If your software is built on open source, then you’ve got an added bonus. Freedom from “vendor lock-in” plus versatile, high-quality coding lend themselves to integration and the agile business solutions we need.
Some of the most impressive (and simplest) examples of cloud phone integrations have involved CRM (customer relationship management) systems. One-click dialling applications can save considerable time and money whilst also giving your customer a more responsive service. “Screen popping” is also a simple addition to your phone, displaying customer details instantly when a call is received and giving your staff immediate insight on the caller’s details past requirements.
In the high pressure environment of financial trading floors, CRM integration can also allow prioritisation of calls from high spending customers for VIP treatment, whilst less active lower spend customers are routed to account managers, possibly specialising in the customer’s vertical market.
An interesting development for travel agents is caller ID verification. It’s possible for the phone system to verify from the caller’s ID whether the customer is in a resort, giving the agency the information required to route the call directly with a specialist team dealing with enquiries locally to the customer.
With connection to your CRM plus some other relatively simple additions, cloud phone systems can quickly provide the basic capabilities of a contact centre for the smaller business. For example, social media monitoring through the CRM allows identification of postings from individuals within the customer data base. Should the postings involve adverse comment s about your company, call flows can prioritise notification to specialist operators who can respond to the issue in time to avoid lasting damage.
The modern, streamlined integration process
Integration between cloud-hosted communications and business processes is building tangible productivity gains for businesses of all sizes today. Furthermore, the good news is that the time, money and resource required to do so amounts to just a small fraction of what it used to take in the past.
The beauty of cloud applications is that the software architecture is designed with integration capabilities built-in. In particular, recent years have seen the adoption of software development built on “microservices”, effectively discrete building blocks that make it easier to shape the application to the integration required without a huge amount of bespoke work. At the same time, the availability of an “application programming interface” (API), facilitates the integration simply and quickly, usually without the need for costly software development skills.
With these capabilities, many small businesses are able to build onto cloud-based phone and contact centre systems the latest “best-of-breed” features using in-house resources, whilst also building competitive advantage for the business. One exciting example that is attracting much attention is web real-time communications (WebRTC). Again, a relatively straightforward integration of WebRTC features can allow contact centre operators to boost multichannel support with the capability to launch voice calls, chat sessions or video sessions from within the browser, without involving the complexity of telephony systems or plug-ins
These are just a few examples of how businesses are gaining advantage by combining their phone system capabilities with other systems driving their business processes.
For more details of the advantages to be gained from intelligent cloud phone systems integration and the smarter approach for your business, see the Foehn Guide to Intelligent Cloud Phone Systems.