When it comes to communicating at work, it should be as simple as ‘pulling up a chair’ to a co-worker’s desk. But in a world that’s gone mobile – where nearly 50% of Americans say they spend at least some time working remotely or from home – how can organizations foster effective communication when team members can literally be working from anywhere? (Source: Gallup Study). Today in our personal lives we use video messaging, instant messaging, and cloud apps to communicate with friends and family. Now organizations are applying similar tools to communicate with employees.
A mobile-first approach to business, technology, and applications today includes Unified Communications (UC). Delivered from a managed partner, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is the new digital communication backbone for facilitating real-time video conferencing, screen sharing, presence, and instant messaging. It’s also the platform that can sync files, data, and contacts between computers, laptops, and smartphones – keeping valuable corporate data safe within the network even when employees are using their favorite devices and working outside the corporate firewall. When done right, UCaaS can erase geographic boundaries, and bring remote teams together keeping them engaged in solving business challenges – instead of getting sidetracked dealing with buffering videos or sifting through emails to find the latest version of a presentation.
But more than injecting efficiency into how we communicate, UCaaS platforms today are going a step further to improve productivity. How? In a word: integrations. Integrations and open APIs (Application Programmable Interfaces) between UCaaS platforms and other business-critical systems are pushing the envelope to drive even greater innovation in the workplace.
Open APIs give customers the ability to integrate UCaaS features, such as one-touch dialing, with business applications like Salesforce. These integrations can automate a sales team’s workflow in many productive ways. Adding a one-touch dialing button from within a CRM application can save reps from having to bring up multiple windows to reach a contact. Or it can make creating a custom report simpler because both platforms have access to the data. In another example, a CRM and UCaas integration could enable a contact center agent to receive a call from an existing customer, and the UCaaS platform automatically recognizes the contact and brings up the corresponding Salesforce record. That way, without shuffling through multiple applications, an agent has all relevant customer data to see the customer’s purchase history, recent interactions, or notes. At their fingertips, agents can focus on solving issues for the customer, providing excellent customer service, and offering relevant complementary products to improve customer engagement. A link between the two business-critical applications also enables simplified call tracking, call logging, and reporting.
Another area advancing within the UCaaS space is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and built-in analytics capabilities. Most UCaaS providers are either developing AI-infused capabilities or their working with partners to integrate third-party AI into their offerings. An example might include adding team collaboration capabilities into a UCaaS platform to match the offerings of Slack, for instance. Or it could consist of partnerships that bring in analytics into other UC- related tasks such as email and audio conferencing. Cisco’s comprehensive communication suite Spark has partnered with IBM to bring in AI and machine learning to productivity tools like email. With the integration, IBM technology can scan emails for keywords and then suggest a conference call with a specified project group, which can be initiated through the UCaaS system directly.
With AI integrated across UCaaS platforms, companies can also gain powerful insight with the ability to build comprehensive reports. An example might include figuring out the average number of ‘touches’ sales reps need before converting leads. Then, this data set can be compared easily to other marketing channels, like email marketing, or web searches. AI-infused chatbots or virtual agents can also get ‘smarter’ about helping customers, using predictive analytics to route chats or calls to the appropriate customer service agent. AI integrations with UCaaS systems will also advance in other areas such as providing ‘smart virtual assistants’ and voice-driven capabilities that enable teams to simply speak to place a call, schedule meetings, or take notes.
While ‘Siri’ for the office’ may still be a few years away, as a cloud-based technology UCaaS is poised to evolve very quickly to keep pace with new demands. IDC predicts that by 2020 nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce will use mobile technology for work (Source: IDC). UCaaS along with open APIs makes it possible for companies to support a mobile-first strategy while reducing operating costs and improving scalability.
If you’d like to look at how you can benefit from integrating UCaaS capabilities with other software applications, talk to us! We’ve helped hundreds of our customers get more from Salesforce, Zendesk, and other business apps by linking them with their UC platform. Ask us how!