By Hannes van der Merwe, Product Manager for managed business services provider Itec South Africa.
In a tough economic climate, businesses are constantly looking for new ways to improve their productivity and deliver service to their customers as quickly as possible. Every minute that you’re able to deliver value to your customer faster gives you a competitive advantage.
Many South African companies are finding that they have more productive time available to themselves – and less time spent in traffic, or in airports – since investing in unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions. In simple terms: they’re getting modern enterprise communications, including instant messaging and video conferencing, with compliance, encryption and security built in.
What does this mean? For a start, it’s revolutionising the way they have meetings. Suddenly, they can communicate with colleagues and customers across the world in a seamless and effective manner. At Itec SA, we have 44 branches in South Africa alone – and nowadays, having a meeting or training session means simply sending a link to all the participants.
Once they click on the link, we can not only see each other, but share documents, HD video and do electronic whiteboarding. Everything that is said during the meeting can be recorded or screen-grabbed in real time, which means if you miss a training session, you can simply watch it later. We even do Exco and Management Committee meetings this way. The savings in time and money have paid for the system several times over.
UCC technology is also revolutionising customer contact centre operations. Call centres are typically big buildings, with desks and chairs and infrastructure – but agents working from home are often up to 60% more productive than their counterparts sitting in traditional call centres, at a fraction of the cost.
The cost savings go way beyond cheaper broadband. It’s about businesses re-engineering their business operations. Why pay rent for a building that accommodates 500 people, when two-thirds of those people can work from home? Why invest millions on a traditional video conferencing set-up in a boardroom, when you can have a full-blown conference session from your computer in a coffee shop, using a cloud-based service?
At the same time, the customer experience is enhanced. If you’re getting an insurance quote, for example, you can communicate with an agent through a video call, and they can share documents with you live. You can even digitally sign your contracts, which means no more driving, faxing, mailing and scanning.
With UCC, companies are suddenly finding they don’t just communicate better: they are also improving work processes and enabling a transformation of their entire business, from big data for deep business insight to more effective supply chain management.
The bottom line is that most of our customers want to enable their people to be flexible, efficient and productive. They want to get rid of balance sheet liabilities, like fuel claims and travel expenses. They want their communications to be fully customisable: office workers need different functionality to people who are on the road for most of their lives, for example.
Most of all, though they want a managed service offering, where someone else looks after the support and maintenance of their business services. They don’t have the infrastructure or resources to manage their systems, but need to tick modern compliance, security and encryption boxes. You focus on your business. We focus on ours. The opportunities are endless.