We have never before had such a wide-ranging understanding of how technology and communications work. Even as part of the Millennial generation, my experience is hugely different from that of people just 10 years younger. And businesses are finding this too – the landscape they find themselves in now differs massively from that of two or three years ago.
This change isn’t slowing down. At the UC Expo at the end of April, I was struck by one of the facts mentioned by Cisco’s Marianne Calder during her keynote: that 137,000 new companies are started daily but 45% of the companies around today won’t exist in 5 years time. We can’t underestimate how much the chances of survival in this new landscape depend on the end-user. Impatient and demanding customers are very willing to go elsewhere if their standards aren’t met, but it’s not just about handling a tricky customer. Much of this survival depends on a company’s ability to adapt to their demanding and digitised customer base. You may be surprised how much of this can hinge on having an effective communications system….
As business models change, behaviours and ways of working are shifting too. BYOD and mobile working are no longer trends – they’re fully integrated into businesses’ strategies. This hyperconnectivity defines our age, but can also cause obstacles in a world where looking after individuals has become a direct point of competition for companies. The question is how they can cater to those who are not only demanding, but demanding 24/7, with no barriers. UC is a pivotal factor in this hyperconnectivity, allowing everyone the flexibility to be online, all the time. And as a solution to this, service providers have to be equally demanding of their UC capabilities, in order to simply keep up with this relentless pace.
And this demand for immediate results is beginning to show itself in new business models. The sharing economy is fuelling an innovation drive. Traditional models aren’t good enough for customers used to having instant access to more flexible alternatives. Who hasn’t looked to Airbnb for a cheap getaway, or relied on Uber to get you home when public transport has let you down? In a world where nothing stays still and everything can be replaced, physical products are less important and customers are less inclined than ever to be brand-loyal. And yet…
Customer loyalty has never been more critical for businesses. Poor customer experience can damage more than your reputation and this fear was voiced throughout the UC Expo. Dimension Data told us that there was an $83 billion annual loss in the US due to poor customer service last year, while Cisco seconded the monumental impact poor customer service can have with their comment that in 2013, a huge 66% of customers switched brands because of it. Even businesses that are not part of this sharing economy are having to adapt to keep up with rapidly increasing customer expectations. When people are able to get a bargain taxi at the click of a button, or a European holiday apartment that is suited precisely to their needs, all businesses are having to find ways to equally centre themselves around the customer and their desires.
And this is what UC service providers say they can offer: the necessary flexibility and coverage to ensure that critical seconds are shaved off customer contact calls, and that customers of global businesses are able to get the necessary coverage regardless of time difference. UC providers are selling themselves as the make-or-break factor in maintaining customer (and equally employee) loyalty when consumers are at their most fickle.
No doubt, the past decade has been defined by rapid change and transformation fuelled by an increased emphasis on the importance of digital strategy. And the world of UC hasn’t been a stranger to this either. There have been some dramatic shifts in comms over the past few years, all of which have impacted the way UC is used and how we collaborate. But, despite its many acronyms, the primary aim of UC isn’t to drag us into anything complex.
As I found out at the UC Expo, UC is ultimately, and very simply, about talking to people – eliminating the barriers, such as automated hold messages and long delays, that can stop these crucial conversations from happening. Today’s technology can offer seamless alignment between devices and countries, so that people can be in touch all of the time, despite meeting face-to-face less and less regularly. And while there’s no doubt that the technology is evolving rapidly, we’re still waiting on the solution that will bridge that particular distance…