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Cultivating meaningful channels of communication with business partners and clients is key to building and maintaining a robust consumer base and building your company's value over time. Contact centers are at the focal point of this initiative and business phone systems are necessary to anchor operations. We also live in a time of heightened expectations - consumers drive markets, and the perspectives of customers and business users are increasingly merging. The consumerization trend is exciting - it gives forward-thinking organizations the opportunity to show clients and customers that they believe in forging strong relationships based on meaningful interactions. Social media offers more visibility for companies to interact directly with their customer base, and many organizations have forged extremely positive reputations by being consistently receptive to customer insight and zealously pursuing increased transparency.

Consumerization also presents challenges and higher requirements for companies that are serious about intelligent communications. With the right considerations, businesses can make their communications systems work smarter, not harder.

Figure out where you stand
Establishing a cost-effective call center doesn't have to happen overnight. By figuring out what your specific business needs are and identifying areas of improvement, you can have a better idea of your next step. I recently read about the way that a business can calculate its contact center IQ in 1to1 Magazine.

One idea that organizations should consider is the possibility of supporting multiple channels in the call center. Research shows that consumers think that contact centers supporting multiple channels of communication provide a better customer experience, with one main caveat - they expect that systems can record them and share their data so they don't have to keep providing the same information at each stage of their interaction, even across mediums. They expect a contact center operator to pick up right where online service personnel left off.

This is where unified communications come into play. Contact center operators can sift through a panoply of data from many sources to find a customer's relevant information, but this is not an efficient use of resources. Having customers' records readily available in a UC system cuts down on call time, improves contact center operations and makes the customer feel like the company truly values his or her business.

Don't be bound by tradition
Smart business models respect the past but know how to learn from it. Leaving behind legacy equipment that isn't providing optimal support is a must for real growth. One of the advantages of VoIP phone systems is that they can evolve alongside your business. They are more scalable and allow organizations to more effectively optimize layering and queuing techniques to provide better customer service. Fonality's contact center solutions offer dynamic features, like skills-based call routing and unlimited queues, which leverage smart, customizable responses to consumer interactions.

The right way to micro-manage
Small and medium-sized businesses can use the innovative features native to VoIP systems to create micro contact centers, deploying enterprise-level customer service with a small staff. SYS-CON Media recently wrote about the gap between SMBs and large enterprises in regard to telephony solutions, which is driven largely by market values and access to resources. Now, a company can use VoIP systems to go paperless, make extensions available on different devices and optimize remote communications.