Consumer demands and behaviour have drastically changed within the last year or so, mainly due to advances in capability. However, we must also take into consideration the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our working environment. Despite our economy going into a recession, consumers are still expecting choice, consistency, and a seamless service from every organisation that they have contact with.
Technologies, such as Unified Communications platforms, have been instrumental in helping organisations respond, allowing new disruptors to challenge established vendors. Challengers are forcing businesses to present their customer service abilities upfront, allowing customers to assess potential suppliers before they fully commit. By creating a modern workforce with new and updated technologies, businesses will be able to reap the benefits that come with it.
As customers become more mobile, so do workforce’s. Indeed, travel is a key requirement for most industries. In some instances, the most knowledgeable, proficient employees are almost entirely field-based, and rarely sat at a desk with a fixed phone. However, time-poor customers do not care about these logistical issues. When they call, it is because they want to speak to an agent there and then, they do not wish to wait. More importantly, these customers expect to be connected to someone who can answer their questions immediately and efficiently. 56% of customers expect their questions to be answers and dealt within a single interaction – if an agent is unable to provide a response straight away, more than half of potential new opportunities will be lost due to customers taking their business elsewhere.
The call agents who are fielding customer queries need to be properly empowered to assist. You must provide access to key documents and data, allowing them to be fully productive in the field and at their desks. You can further increase productivity by allowing your team to knowledge share on expert matters through real-time collaboration.
You should not underestimate the importance of these tools. Take sales reps for instance – according to Pace, just 22% of their working week is spent on actual sales activities. Other tasks like administration and customer support eat into their schedule, reducing the time available to generate sales. With more efficient communication and collaboration tools, they could achieve a better balance. There are similar productivity problems across all roles, not just those in the field.
According to SIS Research, the average employee in a 100-person SMB spends 3.7 hours per week attempting to coordinate communications between team members. They then spend another 3.5 hours waiting to receive information from their colleagues.
At a time when economic growth remains sluggish, reducing inefficiency remains one of the best ways to maintain – or grow – profit margins.
In recent years, mobile working has moved from being a niche requirement for a small subset of employees to a mainstream operational necessity. Changes to legislation, such as the legal right to request flexible working provisions, mean that every business has, or should have been, investigating potential for remote access and connectivity.
However, the challenge here — and indeed the opportunity — isn’t to do with meeting regulations. Technology that supports mobile working effectively will allow you to attract the right employees from a wider candidate pool, retain them, onboard them quickly and keep them connected in ways that make it easier to deliver revenue. Connected with whom? Their wider team, important business assets, and most importantly, your customers.
As alluded to already, candidates now consider remote working provisions as one of their criteria when job hunting. According to a prediction from software giant Citrix, 70% of people will work away from the office as often as they work at a desk. For any business concerned about retention, it makes good sense to invest in remote working tools. It has been identified that employees who have the benefit of working-from-anywhere have a notably higher job satisfaction than those who aren’t — homeworkers are 48% more likely to rate their job a “10/10” on the happiness scale.
When it comes to delivering revenue, the ability to deal with customer queries any place, any time will attract more leads and close new deals. 50% of consumers would use a company more frequently after a positive customer experience, so improving the quality and responsiveness to an organisation’s service will also allow them to maximise revenue from their existing client base. With the right collaboration tools in place, organisations can grow their business even more by finding new customers – and, when they do, it’s a lot easier to build relationships thanks to personalised remote communication e.g., chat or video.
Remote working is also a powerful tool for growing the geographical reach of your business, or developing new ways of working, such as the use of short-term contractors (“gig workers”). A centralised comms platform allows you to expand into new regions and territories quickly. Whether you plan to open a branch office, or to create international franchising options, connecting those new corporate outposts to internal systems can be simple with the right choice of platform.
In the market there are hundreds of tools available that are designed to help businesses communicate and collaborate better. However, this abundance of choice can create further challenges. The more systems an organisation uses, the more complicated and costly it becomes to manage their IT and comms estate. Mature organisations have already acquired several isolated technology solutions – CRM, PBX, finance, helpdesk etc – to deliver against the changing demands of customers and business processes. The situation is so severe that most companies have just 20% of their IT budget to invest in new solutions to drive their business forward – the other 80% is spent maintaining existing legacy platforms. This problem is not restricted to mature businesses either. Agile start-ups that rely on Software as a Service subscriptions, cloud platforms and mobile apps can fall into the same trap very quickly.
Yes, they may have an application for most eventualities, but the cost of operating them all can quickly spiral. Consolidating and reducing the application estate will help to bring these costs back under control. Businesses will also benefit from centralised data, making it easier and quicker to retrieve the right information when you need it.
Collaborating within teams is already a challenge, but the complexity of a multi-system set-up increases exponentially for businesses that operate across multiple sites. Traditional on-premise applications create an additional barrier to company-wide collaboration – information is simply too hard to share and work on effectively. Without full access to data, your team will struggle to deliver an efficient, timely service to demanding customers. Finding a solution that brings disparate channels together allows you to consolidate and connect data to improve personalisation and overall quality of service, which means you’re better placed to improve productivity and profitability.
Mature e-commerce technologies have dramatically simplified the buying process for consumers, making it incredibly easy to buy from sellers based anywhere in the world. This increase in choice is great for consumers, but ultimately causes more vendors to now compete for each sale. Increased choice also exposes commonalities between products and services, making it even harder for businesses to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace – depressing sales and profits in the process. Worse still, increased access to similar offerings is helping to drive down customer loyalty.
The only way to effectively differentiate is through value-adds, particularly the quality of service you offer. In fact, 64% of people find customer experience more important than price. Investment in technologies that improve communications and collaboration will pay off – customers typically spend much more with companies that deliver a consistent, always-on, efficient service.
Your business is facing fundamental challenges from both inside and outside the organisation. Increasingly disloyal customers who have the entire world at their fingertips are looking for a better quality of service in return for their cash. At the same time, employees are demanding flexible working provisions that allow them to better manage their work-life balance. To stay competitive in this constantly evolving environment will require change. Or more specifically, the ability to embrace and support regular change in line with shifting consumer demands and priorities. The backbone of any such system is your communications, the ability to keep data flowing wherever it is needed – and to help your team to work more effectively.