Author - Reelika Tammeoru

4 Ways Financial Services Can Get More Daring in CX

The pressures of the ongoing shift to a digital-first strategy is forcing financial organizations of all kinds to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and provide best-in-class customer service. Decision-makers have been forced to move towards cloud technology to more easily meet the challenges of shifting economics, customer needs, privacy, and compliance requirements. But those who have quickly adopted a future-forward digital CX strategy have realized the potential gains of a cloud collaboration solution to attract and retain customers while optimizing their technology stack.

The result has made switching financial institutions much easier, with competitors offering new benefits daily and customers continually demanding more: more services, more attention, more programs. It’s no longer enough for a cloud solution to just work; it has to be modern, run smoothly and be easy to use. A bank is no longer a place you go to but a thing you do, and consumers weigh the importance of a modern, easy experience ahead of other factors. To make it work, adopting a high-performance all-in-one cloud communications solution is now table stakes.

The good news is, it’s easier than ever to move to the cloud. Here are four ways a cloud collaboration solution can help your financial organization modernize internal collaboration and create a winning, future-proof customer experience.

  • Transform traditional business models
  • Create differentiated customer experiences that maintain the human touch
  • Establish a platform for innovation and business agility
  • Meet compliance needs

Transform Traditional Communication Business Models

Banks and other financial services organizations have traditionally been slow to adopt new technology because of inflexible infrastructures and complex, outdated systems that are layered together. However, adopting a cloud communications solution can increase the value that organizations in this industry deliver. It creates efficiencies of scale, supports revenue growth, and enables innovation, all without the traditional overhead costs of managing hardware. According to the Mitel white paper, Delivering Digital CX for Today’s Mobile Customer, “To truly deliver an optimal customer experience in today’s digital environment, businesses must transition independent communication silos to an integrated digital framework, either funnelling all interactions to one central location or facilitating easy collaboration between customer touchpoints and subject matter experts.”

Create Differentiated CX That Maintains The Human Touch

Beyond digital transformation, the personal touch is still important to maintaining trusted customer relationships and loyalty. With MiCloud Connect you can meet customers where they want to be, how they want to interact, with a consistent experience. You’ll be able to offer customers self-service options that can give them the answers they need, faster without jeopardizing a valuable customer text, chat or video due to a poor experience. For years, the only way to make deposits and withdrawals at a bank was to visit the bank and stand in line. Today, banks offer consumers 24/7 access to bank accounts from millions of automated teller machines (ATMs), through online banking and mobile apps.

Consumers like the convenience these options offer. They don’t complain about how much more impersonal the experience is compared to standing in line to see a teller during business hours. They recognize that these alternatives offer a good self-service option that provides an opportunity to get things done quicker. As a result, they are more likely to be loyal to the bank that offers the most convenient self-service alternatives. Consumers get the experience they expect, and the bank gets an enhanced reputation, as well as a dramatic drop in operating costs.

Establish A Platform For Innovation And Business Agility

Your cloud collaboration solution will create a platform for innovation and business agility. Employee work styles and customer expectations are shifting as we speak. As the next generation of analysts, brokers, relationship managers and workers gravitate towards more flexible working environments, to remain competitive companies must accommodate the many ways people and employees want to collaborate.

In a cloud-based environment, workers can collaborate and share knowledge and experiences to support organizational innovation. Employees want to be able to launch sessions quickly and seamlessly while communicating with clients, co-workers, or business partners. Starting a chat with a co-worker moving quickly to a video call to share screens and files in real-time enables faster decision making, improving both client and employee experiences and outcomes.

Meet Compliance And Regulatory Needs

Mitel ensures financial institutions are protected.

  • Our security efforts are aligned with ISO27000 series of standards.
  • Our security posture is based on the NIS Cybersecurity framework.
  • Our GRC program is based on the OCEG Capability model.
  • MiCloud Connect is subject to an annual internal audit and third-party executed SSAE18 SOC2 audit.

In our new age of flexibility and choice, financial services organizations continue to pivot toward adopting cloud technology including collaboration tools to keep businesses moving forward.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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Integrated Communications are Essential in the New Normal

Almost every day, I hear or read about the “new normal” — the state that countries, businesses and people will find themselves in as pandemic-related restrictions are lifted. Some aspects of our work and personal lives will go back to the way they were pre-pandemic, but others won’t. And we will all need to make adjustments to navigate these uncharted waters.

For many businesses, the new normal will mean some employees may never return to working on-site in offices. Some will only work on-site part time, while others will return to the office full-time. You’ll need to support all of these arrangements. And you’ll need to provide that support in a way that allows dispersed team members to seamlessly connect and collaborate as if they were all together.

Those Band-Aid Solutions Were Only Temporary Fixes

As the pandemic struck, in the rush to adapt to and support a remote workforce almost overnight, you may have turned to third-party apps for messaging, video and collaboration capabilities. This strategy was the right one at the time because it solved a new, and immediate, need. Your teams could quickly and easily download these apps so they could connect and collaborate from their homes and allow your business to continue functioning.

Now, you need to look beyond your basic ability to function with remote workers. It’s time to fortify your communications strategy by replacing disjointed tools with fully integrated solutions that are designed for long-term sustainability.

Integrated solutions provide the data, voice and video communications and collaboration features you’ve come to rely on, but are less expensive to maintain, less complex to manage and less complicated for your teams to juggle than disparate apps. And they seamlessly connect to your existing infrastructure.

Integrated solutions let you do more

When your communications and collaboration solutions are fully integrated, team interactions are more natural and intuitive, no matter how people are sharing information. People are free to focus on the topic at hand rather than the mechanics required to use, and switch between, a variety of disparate tools and apps. Everyone can work more efficiently and collaborate more instinctively.

Here are a just a few examples of what’s possible when you integrate Mitel communications and collaboration solutions into your existing MiVoice Business system:

  • Access all capabilities from a single application. With Mitel MiCollab, you have one, cost-effective application that provides everything needed — voice, video, messaging, presence, audio conferencing, mobility and team collaboration. There’s no need to jump between apps with different user experiences. And you can seamlessly switch devices mid-conversation. Picture someone talking on their desk phone or on the softphone on their computer, then easily switching the conversation to their mobile phone as they head out the door.
  • Expand team interactions. With Mitel MiTeam Meetings, you can transition between chat, voice and real-time video conferencing across time zones and geographies. You can also securely extend communications and collaboration opportunities to remote team members, partners, suppliers and customers to increase touchpoints and strengthen relationships.
  • Have more flexible conversations. Over the past year, many businesses have taken advantage of Microsoft Teams, the collaboration tool that comes with Office 365 subscriptions. Our Microsoft Teams integration solutions let you easily switch between chat, video and voice while staying within the Teams web or desktop app. For example, you can use the Mitel Assistant bot tolaunch MiTeam Meetings directly from a chat conversation in Microsoft Teams and smoothly shift from a text conversation to a video conference. Our Chrome extension lets you make softphone calls within the Microsoft Teams web app with a single click. And our app dialer lets you set up a hotkey to select numbers to dial in the Microsoft Teams desktop app.

Evolution Is Faster, Easier, Less Expensive

Naturally, you’ll want to continue evolving your communications system over time. Adding new features and functions is far easier when you’re using a modern, integrated communications system than it is if you’re using a disjointed collection of systems and apps from different vendors.

These point solutions were not designed to smoothly evolve together. Updates are provided by multiple separate companies when it makes sense for their business, not yours. Third-party applications that worked together one day can easily become out-of-sync the next if one is updated and the other is not. Managing all of these different apps becomes very complex and expensive compared to an integrated system where all components smoothly evolve together.

An integrated system also simplifies your evolution to the cloud when the time is right. Every business will fully migrate their communications system to the cloud at some point. Why not put the pieces in place today to ensure your teams benefit from the smoothest possible transition?

A purpose-built MiCloud Flex solution brings your teams all of the same great communications and collaboration features they’ve come to rely on in MiVoice Business, MiCollab and MiTeam Meetings, but they’re delivered from the cloud. You have a single communications integrated cloud solution that provides the same experience on desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets, but you don’t have to spend time, effort or money managing the system. At the same time, you maintain full control over upgrade and maintenance windows, and can mix and match service levels to meet changing business demands.

You can also integrate with Microsoft Teams in the cloud. Mitel MiCloud Connect for Microsoft Teams is a direct routing solution that integrates MiCloud Connect’s cloud telephony capabilities into the Microsoft Teams interface. Your staff can stay within Microsoft Teams while accessing MiCloud Connect features such as flexible phones, real-time rich presence and availability and ring group control. You also have a seamless unified communications experience across Mitel MiCloud Connect, Google Chrome and G Suite.

The Right Partner Helps You Find Your New Normal

There are numerous factors to consider and multiple options to choose from when determining how to evolve your MiVoice Business platform today and tomorrow. The good news is you don’t have to make this journey on your own.

A Mitel certified partner is standing by, ready to help you find the best path to your new normal, no matter where that path may lead.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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How to Build Resilient Teams

A recent report detailing work from home statistics in 2021 shows that 43% of workplaces have half of their employees working from home.

How do you find the right people? How do you keep your team engaged and productive while working remotely and things are constantly changing?

That’s what we’re going to look at in this article.

What Is A Resilient Team?

A resilient team can handle unforeseen changes or challenges and persevere as necessary. According to HR consultancy firms LHH and Ferrazzi Greenlight, the members of your team should embody the following four critical characteristics of resilient teams:

  • Candor: Teams with open and honest dialogue are more likely to come up with solutions. Speaking truthfully with each other can help you identify challenges and address them quickly.
  • Resourcefulness: When faced with challenges, teams should work together to find creative solutions. Resilient teams bounce back from setbacks and stay focused on their goal.
  • Compassion & Empathy: Resilient teams consist of individuals who deeply and genuinely care about each other. Your team needs to be able to share both their successes and failures.
  • Humility: Resilient teams are willing to admit when they can’t handle a problem and ask for help.

How To Build A Resilient Team

Building a resilient team is no easy feat. It takes empathy, effective communication, and honesty to establish trust with one another. Below are a few key elements you can incorporate to build a resilient team.

Show Empathy

Leadership requires balance. It’s about strength and humility, focusing on vision and gathering input.

The most successful leaders inspire people, believe in others’ potential, and show empathy even when faced with difficult decisions.

Most people don’t immediately become managers the moment they enter the working world. They start on the bottom rung of the ladder and gradually take on more responsibilities until they reach leadership level.

You can use this to your advantage.

Share examples of times when you faced similar challenges to your team and coach them through the difficulties they’re facing. But importantly, don’t assume you know exactly how they feel. Ask them

It all ties back to those four characteristics of resilient teams. Speak truthfully about your own experiences; be compassionate about the struggles your team is facing; work with them to find solutions, and be humble enough to realize you don’t have all the answers.

Improve Communication

Without effective communication, you can’t be a strong leader, and you can’t build a resilient team.

How can you be resourceful in overcoming challenges or demonstrate compassion and empathy if you can’t communicate properly?

Unfortunately, a lot of workplace communication simply isn’t as meaningful or helpful as it should be. In fact, 50% of workers feel meetings are a waste of time and should be cut in half or better yet, eliminated altogether.

Here are three steps to level up your communication and use it to build your team’s resilience:

1. Communicate Consistently

If you’re a manager who has been tasked with building and sustaining a team, you know how difficult it can be to try and maintain consistency in the midst of the many projects and to-do’s simultaneously on the go. Consistency is one of the most important factors you should focus on to create a positive working environment.

Regular communication can help establish clarity in terms of roles, responsibilities, and expectations, as well as buy-in from everyone on the team for their role within its structure. It can also help build camaraderie, and foster mutual respect among teammates.

If you operate a team that works remotely, you should always have at least one instant communication channel open to keep everyone in touch and on the same page. Likewise, you can use a shared virtual space (such as a Facebook group) to share social media content on company updates or big industry news. Encourage your team to share relevant content, too.

Always-on communications create a culture in which messaging is the natural way to reach out to other team members with minimal delays in response.

2. Encourage Honesty

Some teams create an environment where everything can seem toxic. Even with the best intentions, raising any issue or concern could add fuel to the fire. How will this affect team collaboration down the road?

It’s important for you to establish a work environment where people feel comfortable speaking openly from the get-go. This helps individuals on your team make better decisions and be more willing to take risks that could lead to success.

When team members know they can raise difficult points free of consequences, your team becomes more resilient.

Encourage them to share openly by holding smaller meetings and one-to-ones.

3. Build Connections

A transformational leader can map out the highs and lows in each member’s journey so they can fully understand their colleagues and the adversity they might be facing. This builds resilience by creating an environment where compassion for others is welcomed while fostering trust and engagement between teammates.

In a group setting, encourage team members to discuss highs, lows, and other formative experiences from their professional and personal lives. Sharing in this way helps to normalize open conversations and encourages compassion.

Show Appreciation

Appreciation is a powerful tool that can dramatically improve the productivity and morale of your team. An appreciative boss is much more likely to have a high rate of success, and grateful teams have better work engagement and satisfaction levels.

In other words, for a team to be successful, it’s key that everyone in the group feels valued.

Celebrate instances when team members have gone the extra mile and embodied your company values. Hold regular meetings where you ask your team members to share their biggest “win” of the past month.

Create A Support System

Everyone needs support to maintain healthy habits. When it comes to organizational resilience, if you are able to create a supportive environment for your team (especially through stressful situations), you will be more likely to adopt a growth mindset and drive results.

Make this a key focus of your one-to-one reviews. Rather than diving straight into discussing performance and progress, start each review by simply asking, “How are you doing?”

Encourage team members to raise problems and generally encourage them that it’s okay to feel stressed or worried about challenging situations. Provide actionable advice and help them out when it’s relevant, but remember that sometimes all you need to do is listen.

Clarity

It’s crucial to keep your team in the loop and respond to them in a timely manner with as much information as possible when working within a team. Taking the time to get everyone on your team to understand your long-term goals and provide clarity for everyone involved can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to building a resilient team, there are a variety of factors that need to be considered. Resilience is built, not found. It requires improving communication skills within your team, encouraging honesty and creating an environment based on the appreciation of each other’s strengths.

Whether it’s the constant change and remote work that comes with the pandemic, or a need for organizational growth—building up your team’s resilience will enable them to react effectively when faced with tough times or adversity.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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Life-Changing Communication Tips for Remote Work

Remote work is becoming the norm for both employees and managers. While some will make a return to the physical office this year―either some or all of the time―a good percentage of workers will stick with the remote approach.

In fact, managers believe 26.7% of the workforce will be fully remote by the end of 2021, according to the December 2020 Future Workforce Report. Additionally, the report predicts the number of remote workers will nearly double over the next five years, reaching 36.2 million Americans by 2025.

Fortunately, remote work is, for the most part, going well, with 68% of hiring managers reporting that remote work is going more smoothly than it did at the start of the pandemic. Many employees now find they’re more productive and enjoy the more flexible work schedule.

But remote work still presents challenges. When people first started working exclusively from home, many found it hard to “leave” the office, with the lines between work and home blurring. As remote work continued, employees became more adept at finding a better work-life balance. Even so, a Harvard Business Review study found the workday is still 10-20% longer on average when compared to pre-pandemic times.

Another major area impacted by long-term remote work is communications. Most workers and managers found ways (like embracing videoconferencing) to get work done and collaborate on projects. Still, some find it a challenge to have the same kind of in-depth conversations and brainstorming sessions without being in the same room. And let’s not forget about the importance of spontaneous, informal meetings that happen over a cubicle wall or in the hallway. These types of chance encounters are important not only for social interaction and morale, but they can also lead to ideas that positively impact the outcome of a project.

Since remote work isn’t going away, it’s important for both employees and managers to find ways around these challenges. Not surprisingly, the technology exists to overcome these remote work obstacles, thanks to cloud communications. Lucky for you, we have four communications tips to share. Be prepared to have your remote work life changed (for the better) forever.

1. Avoid Video Fatigue

When everyone made the initial shift to remote work, video meetings were a popular choice. However, video fatigue quickly set in, as it became draining to always be “on” from one meeting to the next. Making sure you have the proper lighting and professional background for video calls can create an extra headache and isn’t always necessary. The face-to-face feel of a video call may be ideal for brainstorming sessions or other important meetings, but there are occasions when other communications tools are better suited for the task at hand. Perhaps screen sharing will make a meeting more productive. Break-out rooms with smaller groups may be appropriate when a large project needs to be tackled in stages. With MiCollab from Mitel, you can even start an ad hoc meeting with a single click. The use of varied communications methods keeps teams productive while removing the stress that can accompany a long day of video meetings.

2. Give Remote Employees Control With A Choice Of Communications Options

If you want to keep your employees inspired and engaged, give them options. An integrated unified communications solution provides a multitude of choices when it comes to communications and collaboration. Use video when you need to see someone’s facial expressions. Draw or write on a shared whiteboard when it’s time to brainstorm. Check a team member’s status in real time to see if they’re available to chat online or answer an urgent question. Share a file or post a comment in a shared workspace or create an agenda and assign tasks so everyone can see the status of a project. An innovative cloud communications technology platform has a solution for every task at hand. The best part is employees can seamlessly move from one communications channel to another, creating a frictionless experience which makes for a happy work-from-home day.

3. Make Time For Casual Conversation

We may not be gathering around the water cooler as much these days, but there’s no reason we can’t recreate the experience. The same tools used for collaborating on work projects can also be used to promote social interaction among remote staff. Chat is just one way employees can engage in casual, lighthearted banter spontaneously. Other collaboration tools can also be put to good use for less professional (but still important) work. Employees can share recipes for a delicious post-work dinner or recommend inspiring music. They can even create a space dedicated to helping each other reach health and wellness goals. Remote employees will feel like they’re back in the office, chatting away, in no time.

4. Create A Connected Culture

Company culture plays a huge role in employee satisfaction and retention, but there’s no denying it’s a lot harder to build and foster a culture when most of your workforce is remote. Unified communications technology, however, provides managers with new and innovative ways to make even the most remote employee feel like part of the team. It all boils down to connection. Shared workspaces, chat, video and web conferencing can all be put to work to keep employees informed and engaged. With so many ways to connect, unified communications technology makes fostering the company culture remotely a seamlessly simple task.

Remote work may be here to stay, but the feeling of remoteness isn’t. Put cloud communications tools and technology to work and make everyone feel like a team player.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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Preparing to Manage a Hybrid Team? 5 Hacks to Make it Work

When businesses transitioned to remote work at the start of the pandemic, their leaders and supervisors learned how to manage a virtual workforce. Now managers face another big upheaval: the rise of the hybrid workplace.

In the coming months, companies will reopen their office spaces and allow employees to return―with a few key differences. Many firms expect to adopt a hybrid approach, in which employees split their time between the company’s facilities and their home office.

That’s right. Just as you thought you had remote work all figured out, now there are a whole new set of challenges.

However, managers are the linchpin in this scenario, and the way you approach the transition can make all the difference in the success (and happiness) of your team. There will be new routines to master, but as the group leader, you’re in a unique position to set the tone. Think of it as a chance to reset routines and refresh processes and rules.

As you map your return-to-work plan, take advantage of some expert recommendations. These hacks will help you and your team navigate a more complex, yet exciting work environment.

1. Design A Healthier Culture

As much as work itself can be rewarding, it also comes with a fair amount of stress. However, the hybrid approach offers managers a chance to reset the culture and reduce workplace pressures.

Remote work presents challenges because employees tend to work longer hours. But that can create health issues. The World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently raised concerns about how teleworking blurs the lines between home and work―and may impact health. According to a study the organization conducted before the pandemic, the risk of dying from stroke and heart disease is higher if you work more than 55 hours a week.

On the other hand, being in the office comes with its own challenges. In one survey, 61% of employees say workplace stress made them sick, while 7% said they’d been hospitalized as a result.

The hybrid approach could alleviate both problems. The return to the office offers an unprecedented opportunity to change the work culture. Blending time in the office with work at home, employees may benefit from a better balance, finding it easier to log off on remote days and finally getting that social connection on in-person days. In addition, managers can improve workplace culture by actively fostering positive connections and relationships with and among team members, further helping to reduce stress levels.

2. Take Steps To Eliminate “Proximity Bias”

Managers and employees are both at risk of falling into the same trap: Relying on or trusting those we see most often. Experts call this “proximity bias“: the unconscious tendency to favor those near you or whom you see most often.

To keep remote employees from feeling disconnected, employers will need to take steps to strengthen connections.

Experts recommend several hacks you can use to keep both remote and in-office workers equally engaged:

  • Create and set expectations about how team members will communicate with each other. For instance, set guidelines for who should be invited to each meeting.
  • Pay attention to how you spend your day and be sure you give all team members a fair shake.
  • Set a basic rule that all meetings should be held on videoconference―whether employees are in the office or not.
  • You’re less likely to overlook remote workers (such as leaving them off meeting invitations) if you have clear communication policies in place.

3. Ensure The Right Communications Tools Are Available

Employees adapted easily to new communications tools at the start of the pandemic. But videoconferencing, web chat and other collaboration tools will retain their importance in the hybrid environment.

In fact, some upgrades to the company’s office space will be required to manage the needs of both types of workers. For instance, Deniz Caglar, principal, organization and workforce strategy at PwC, believes businesses will need to improve the video and sound quality of conferencing technology, as well as provide the right resources for hoteling.

Keep in mind your remote working technology should enable employees to switch easily between the company’s workspace and their in-home offices seamlessly.

4. Reconsider Productivity Measures

In the pre-pandemic world, managers often drew a direct line between an employee’s time in the office and their productivity. One study estimates that U.S. productivity will rise by 5%, mostly due to savings in commuting time.

Still, how should managers evaluate individual performance in a hybrid world? Gallup research suggests the better approach is to manage productivity rather than measure it.

In conversations with 150 chief human resource officers, the firm identified several themes and pieces of wisdom, including:

  • Inspire your team by focusing on your organization’s mission and purpose.
  • Support and care for your employees, and they’ll go the extra mile for you.
  • Communicate more, and when you do, be more transparent.

5. Focus On Mentoring

Mentoring is another tool at your disposal. The value of coaching and cultivating employees through a structured program has long been extolled. In fact, 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs.

In the hybrid workplace, you can establish mentor relationships to cultivate employee development and retention, as well as elevate your team’s well-being, cohesion and productivity levels.

What’s the best approach to mentoring employees both in the office space and at home? In Harvard Business Review, Marianna Tu and Michael Li of the nonprofit America Needs You (ANY), suggest a few tips to be a great mentor.

One strategy is to use open communication to build trust. Tu and Li recommend holding more one-to-one meetings and using the time to discuss both work and personal issues. As it becomes harder to separate work from personal life, creating an understanding of individual pressures can lead to collaborative solutions that help relieve stress.

The authors also suggest managers collaborate with employees in real time on goals. It’s more effective than simply sharing or telling an employee what needs to be done. In addition, using tools like screen-sharing will increase efficiency, effectiveness and buy-in.

The new world of hybrid work may seem daunting and challenging at first, but managers have an incredible opportunity to build a better culture for their teams. These hacks are a great way to start.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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11 Worst Digital Customer Service Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Even if you’re committed to offering the best digital customer service possible, there’s a number of pitfalls you can face. 

So, how do you make sure you’re keeping your website customers smiling? How do you make sure they remain loyal? 

By avoiding the most common online customer service mistakes. Take a look and see where your business is going wrong. 

What is digital customer service? 

A crucial part of the online customer experience, digital customer service concerns the assistance you provide your customers via digital channels. Like traditional customer service, digital customer service can be offered both pre- and post-purchase. 

Examples of digital customer service channels include email, live chatvideo chat, social media messaging, and many more. 

Why is digital customer service important? 

As the online equivalent of traditional customer service, digital customer service is important for much the same reasons as its offline counterpart: it can increase customer satisfaction, sales and retention. In fact, 89% of customers are more likely to make another purchase after enjoying a positive customer service. 

Conversely, poor customer service has been proven to turn buyers away from companies, limiting profits and damaging company reputations. The same is true of poor digital customer service.

While 81% of customers will share bad examples of traditional customer service with their friends and family, poor digital customer service experiences are regularly published online for all to see. 

It means thousands of would-be customers might be turning away from your business before you’ve had a chance to make a good impression. Just take a look at some of the reviews listed below. Would you want these kinds of reviews for your business? 

The 11 worst digital customer service mistakes

Take a look at these digital customer service mistakes. Are you guilty of any of these customer service sins?

1. Ignoring customers 

No business makes it their official policy to ignore their customers, yet this digital customer service mistake still happens far too often – whether accidentally or through sheer carelessness.

Either way, making this kind of error can lead to dire results. Businesses who routinely ignore customer queries through their website and social media channels can expect a drastic drop in their customer satisfaction. In turn, customer relations will suffer too, damaging customer engagement and, ultimately, your sales and retention. 

To combat the possibility that you’re leaving customers ignored, make sure you analyse your contact channels’ efficiency and adopt processes to ensure you’re always replying to your customers. 

You can even use website engagement tools to avoid this kind of mistake in the future. For instance, with social media listening tools, you’ll be notified about comments your customers leave online – even if they don’t tag your handle or your company name. It’ll help you rectify the situation fast. 

2. Rudeness

This second digital customer service sin is arguably worse than the first. While it might go without saying that you should never be rude to your customers, nobody is perfect. Mistakes can easily be made. 

But with 82% of customers citing friendly contact centre agents as an important aspect of the customer service experience, trying to justify rude behaviour simply won’t do. 

The best way to combat this issue is to make sure contact centre agents are well trained and know how to diffuse customer tension.

By making a commitment in this area, you’ll not only ensure that you’re always treating your customers with respect, you’ll also know your contact centre agents are confident and well-supported. As Simon Sinek suggests, ‘customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.’ 

3. Keeping customers waiting in the dark

With 60% of customers stating that waiting is the most frustrating part of customer service, it’s clear that overly long waiting periods are never ideal. Unfortunately, they’re also unavoidable at times.

‍Even so, what turns a long wait into a digital customer service sin is keeping customers in the dark. If they find the wait frustrating, a lack of updates is only going to make things worse.  

The reason for this frustration is understandable. When purchasing a product or service online, customers often need more assurance than if they were buying from a brick and mortar location. 

After all, a queue in a real life store is much more tangible than a queue for a live chat interaction or the wait for a delivery to arrive. 

This is why more and more retailers are making use of ecommerce chatbots and trackers to keep their online customers up to date. 

The good news is that this digital customer service mistake can be fixed with a few key improvements. 

  1. Prioritize faster response times by offering more contact channels and leveraging self-service. 
  2. Don’t make promises on delivery or resolution times that you can’t keep. 
  3. Keep your customers up to date as much as possible – whether it’s good news or bad.

While the first two improvements can take a little more time to put in place, this last tip can help you improve your digital customer service straight away. By remaining honest and transparent with your customers, you’re proving your integrity and dedication to solving your customers’ problems. Even if they are still a little frustrated, think how annoyed they’d be with no update whatsoever. 

4. Assuming one contact channel is enough

Different customers have different contact channel preferences. While offering traditional phone support might work for some, others will want to talk with your company solely through online means. 

For instance, Millennials and Gen Z prefer email and social media channels respectively. So imagine trying to target these demographics while only offering customer service over the phone. It would quickly frustrate your customers.  

The best way to tackle this kind of digital customer service mistake is to adopt an omnichannel approach to your online presence. 

For example, for customers with a simple query, you can install a chatbot that can assist them quickly and efficiently. For more in-depth questions or discussions, you can escalate to live chat. 

You might even offer web calling or video chat for customers who’d prefer a more personalised touch. 

By offering as many sustainable contact channels as possible, you’re proving to your customers that you’re offering maximum accessibility as part of their customer experience. It means they’ll always deem you as a helpful and communicative brand. 

What’s more, an omnichannel approach is the best solution to the following digital customer service mistake too. 

5. Bouncing customers around

Bouncing customers between contact channels is one of the most frustrating challenges customers face. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence: only 20% of companies solve a customers’ query during first contact.  

You might’ve experienced this digital customer service mistake yourself. If you’ve ever called a company up with an issue, only to be told to email them instead, it can feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. 

Nevertheless, the problem is understandable from both sides of the interaction. While customers will always prefer to have their issues solved on the spot, contact agents sometimes need to change contact channels to fully understand the customer’s problem. 

In our previous example, we looked at how companies with an omnichannel approach can avoid this digital customer service pain-point. 

Rather than bouncing customers from channel to channel, an omnichannel customer service platform allows agents to deal with a variety of channels within a single pane of glass. 

This approach also allows agents to escalate customer interactions to different channels in the same session. It means that customers always deal with the same agent. 

By making sure that customers never have to start from scratch with a new team member, customer tension is soothed. Their problems can be solved within one contact session. They’ll no longer feel like they’re running around in circles just to get your attention. 

6. Getting the tone wrong

While this digital customer service mistake is most often committed via social media comments, speaking in the wrong tone to your customers can happen over any contact channel. 

For instance, when customers are denied a request with a casual and unapologetic tone, 78% are dissatisfied with the service they receive. Dissatisfaction dramatically decreases if they’re spoken to with a more apologetic tone. 

Like speaking rudely to your customers, getting the tone wrong during a customer service interaction is never a good idea. While you might think making a joke with your customers will ease the conversation and create empathy, you need to make sure you never cross the line. 

The best approach is to encourage your contact agents to use humour sparingly. This is not to say that agents can’t be light-hearted at times, but they should always remain polite and professional. 

The goal is to solve the customer’s issue, not to make them laugh. You’d be much wiser trying to make them smile with stellar customer service, saving the jokes for your social media feed – so long as you keep them wholesome and on-brand!

7. Not asking for feedback

One of the best ways you can improve your digital customer service overall is by asking for feedback. 

A staggering 91% of customers leave a business without letting the business know why. That’s a huge number of customers who might’ve remained loyal had they had the chance to express their views. 

What’s more, 77% of customers view brands who ask for feedback more favourably. Yet not enough businesses make the most of their customers’ views. 

To avoid this digital customer service mistake, take the advantage over your competitors by reaching out to your customers. Prove to them that you’re listening. 

It’s incredibly easy to do. Simply make use of the dozens of feedback and survey tools available online. Any negative feedback you gather can help you make vital improvements that’ll keep customers loyal. 

There’s more added bonuses too: by asking for feedback, you’ll be proving to your customers that you appreciate their opinions, leading to an increase in customer engagement. Any positive feedback gathered can also be used for testimonials – another great reason to make the most of your customers’ insights and opinions.  

8. Neglecting self-service

This digital customer service mistake can cause a lot of frustration for contact agents and customers alike. By neglecting self-service options for your customers, your contact agents will suffer under the strain of an overly heavy workload. 

What’s more, some customers will get annoyed that they have to get in touch when they know full well they could solve the issue themselves. 

With the use of self-service resources up by 80%, most customers are now well-versed in seeking out guidance online. You just want to make sure they’re looking to your resources, not your competitors’. 

Fortunately, there’s a very simple fix to turn this mistake into a digital customer service win. Start by analysing your customer journey. 

By locating the pain-points your customers experience on your site, you can start to develop a list of what self-service support information you need to provide up front. That way, you can start offering your customers the chance to resolve issues for themselves. 

Chatbots, FAQ pages, and explainer videos are great places to start, but that’s not to say they can replace all of your digital customer service strategies. 

Instead, tools like these can compliment your primary contact channels to make sure your customers are only getting in touch once they’ve explored all the resources on offer. It’ll mean more customers are able to solve their own problems quicker, which means less strain on your staff. It’s a win-win. 

9. Impersonal responses

63% of customers have stopped purchasing products or services due to poor personalisation. So while this digital customer service mistake might not seem like the worst sin on the list, in terms of customer retention, it can easily prove the last straw.

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example. Say a customer has ordered an item online and has been faced with a delayed delivery. They don’t receive any updates, and when they do get in touch, they are bounced from channel to channel. 

Finally, they are told to email the customer service department, only to receive an impersonal response that neither addresses their problem, or even their name. The email simply asks them to be patient – ‘We’ll get back in touch with you as soon as we can!’ 

How likely is it that this customer will go on to buy from this company again? According to research, not likely: 85% of customers go elsewhere because of poor customer service that they deemed ‘easily preventable’. If using a customer’s name isn’t easy enough, we don’t know what is! 

Either way, this digital customer service mistake is often a result of overstretched customer service teams and poor company processes. To make sure you’re not committing the same mistakes, there’s a few things you can do. 

When speaking to customers via email, make sure your team always responds personally, politely, and professionally. If you use automated email software for acknowledgement emails, make sure your system is set up to respond with your customers’ names. 

On the social media front, if you’re facing a large amount of queries, it might be tempting to use canned responses when speaking with customers. The same temptation might also arise when using digital customer service tools like live chat. 

Even so, if you are going to use these kinds of templates, it’s best to take the time to personalise them for each use. By acknowledging your customer by name, you’re showing them respect up front. It’ll make the following interactions all the smoother. 

10. Showing no appreciation

91% of customers said they are more likely to buy from brands that show appreciation for their business. So if you ever find yourself cleaning up after a digital customer service disaster, one way to rectify the situation is to show your customers true appreciation. 

If a customer has already experienced problems with your product or service, they already feel short-changed. Don’t add insult to injury by taking their patience for granted. In fact, it’s on occasions like these where you should strive to demonstrate stellar customer service. 

If you’re making up for a mistake, offer a sincere apology. Discounts and free gifts work great too. 

You should also thank these customers for their business like you would with any other customer. After all, saying thank you is the polite thing to do, and an expression of gratitude can go a long way to perfecting a great customer experience.   

Ultimately, the world is your oyster when it comes to showing your appreciation to customers. All you need is a little imagination to take your digital customer service to the next level. 

11. Failing to improve

When it comes to the digital customer service mistakes that are the most damaging, this final entry on our list might be the worst sin of all. 

After all, with 1 in 3 formerly loyal customers turning away from a business following a bad experience, you don’t want to risk annoying the customer base that remains. Even if these customers do put their trust in your company again, they aren’t likely to stick around if they suffer another bad experience. 

The good news is that with effort, your digital customer service strategies can be improved quicker than you think… 

How can digital customer service be improved? 

There we have it, the 11 worst digital customer service mistakes you can make. And, more importantly, avoid!

After all, offering great digital customer service is a continuous process. It’s never too late to take advantage of the great perks that fantastic customer service has to offer. To get started, simply review the following pointers. 

  1. Always acknowledge customer queries.
  2. Always remain polite.
  3. Update your customers – even if it’s bad news.
  4. Use an omnichannel approach.
  5. Don’t bounce customers from channel to channel.
  6. Use the right tone.  
  7. Ask for feedback.
  8. Offer self-service.
  9. Personalise your responses.
  10. Show appreciation.
  11. Prioritize improvement.

Which digital customer service strategies do you think are most important? 

This blog post was first published by Talkative.

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Worst Customer Experience Mistakes in a Hybrid World – and How to Fix Them

As businesses reopen their office buildings, many employees will transition from remote to hybrid work, expanding their geographical footprint while also continuing to blend work and home life.

It’s important to remember the hybrid approach will impact other parts of our lives, too, including shopping, learning and banking, to name a few examples. That means companies will not only need to adapt the workplace for a hybrid world, but they’ll also need to innovate the customer experience (CX).

Of course, this is uncharted territory. Mistakes will be made. But companies can take steps now to avoid the worst of them. As you map out your course, be sure to set a path that avoids these three errors.

Mistake #1: Assuming Customers Are Either All Virtual Or All In-Person

Customers are now as comfortable with virtual interactions as they are at making in-person transactions. So, their engagement with your business needs to fit into their lives―a need that will change depending on what they’re doing and where they are at that moment. A leading CX program will engage them in whatever channel is most convenient: phone, email, SMS, web chat, social media or in-person.

As a result, your business needs to have a real-time understanding of what channels your customers are using to reach you and how they prefer to be contacted. Customer behaviors evolve rapidly, and trends that were true a year ago or a few months ago may not necessarily be true today. The only way to know for sure is to capture and track data on your business, and use analytics to guide your strategy going forward.

Keep in mind it would be a mistake to go too far in the virtual direction. Exceptional CX programs establish a relationship with the customer and are there for them whenever they want a human touch. Be sure to strike a balance between the efficiency and cost savings of technology with the strategic and purposeful use of employee time.

To make best use of valuable employee time, and to make sure customers can effortlessly make contact, your business needs a robust workforce optimization program to have the right contact center staffing in place at the right time (and attending to the right channels). The best CX programs also have a serious, data-driven quality program with analytics and closed-loop feedback to continuously improve the operation. Mitel’s Workforce Optimization Suite can help you and your team analyze customer interactions, increase employee engagement and improve the customer experience.

Mistake #2: Not Realizing Employees Are Customers, Too

Attracting and retaining the most talented employees is imperative for the highest performing businesses. These employees can afford to be highly selective about the company they work for. For this reason, make it a priority to deliver a seamless, integrated experience for your employees―one that includes easy access to work applications, communication and collaboration tools, employee benefits portals, and all other facets of their experience with your company.

Focusing on creating an exceptional experience for employees not only causes them to be more satisfied working for you, it helps them be more effective and productive. This is particularly important for companies and employees who adopt the hybrid style of working.

Being able to seamlessly interact with other colleagues while working remotely helps them reconnect with ease when they are in the office together. Having the flexibility to choose the most effective means of communication is key; chat may be most efficient for some quick interactions, while other times they may opt to speak live with one or more teammates. Being able to easily schedule or kick off a call helps them focus their time and mental energy on more value-added tasks. It also keeps them engaged and avoids frustration. Thanks to the tech products they use every day, top-performing employees have developed high expectations for the tools they use at work.

Companies that recognize and deliver on these expectations will find it easier to engage employees and make them happier. This, in turn, leads to happier customers. Indeed, research shows there is a strong link between employee well-being and customer satisfaction.

Mistake #3: Believing Your Company Has Sufficient CX Capabilities In Place Already

Exceptional customer experience is now table-stakes. To differentiate your business, it’s more important than ever to continuously push forward in this space. For example, Accenture indicates that 80 percent of brands think they deliver a superior customer experience, while only 8 percent of their customers agree.

Customers expect a lot. In fact, Accenture also points out that one-third of business-to-business (B2B) buyers indicate their CX expectations have increased. In addition, 44 percent of B2B buyers switched sellers in the past 12 months. With competition as intense as it has ever been, the business that delights its customers at every contact will prevail. Be intentional, and pay attention to the data trends and feedback. Most importantly, be nimble and course-correct as needed.

The CX business is an exciting place to be right now. We all have increasingly complex and multi-faceted lives, and high expectations for the businesses we interact with. The ability to meet your customers and employees where they are is more critical than ever. Avoiding these common mistakes can differentiate your business and elevate your organization’s CX strategy to the next level.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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Remote and Hybrid Workforces: Liam Martin Explores the Now of Work

I’m writing this blog in my pajamas on my couch. Or maybe I’m writing it on the beach in Antigua, trying to keep the sun’s glare from reflecting off my laptop screen. Or maybe I’m wearing a suit, sitting in a cubicle, imagining I was somewhere else.

The pandemic has helped make one thing clear: the where of work isn’t important as the how of it. But what’s even more important is the when: we want that router fixed now. We want this blog post delivered now. With all of the tools and technology we have at our disposal, we can focus on The Now of Work and find balance between privacy and accountability, security and collaboration, structure and flexibility.

Liam Martin, Co-organizer of the Running Remote conference and Co-founder of Time Doctor, has been thinking about remote work for over a decade. And now the world is catching up: “A year ago, remote work wasn’t a big thing,” he says. “Four percent of the US had been working remotely. At the peak of the pandemic, 46% of the US workforce was working remotely. And now everyone’s gotten a taste for remote work, and we have to figure out what happens next.”

I spoke to Liam about how business can best support remote and hybrid workers. Here are the highlights from our conversation.

Accountability Vs. Autonomy

Employee retention has always been a top concern for HR professionals, but now, during a time when managers and employees alike are adjusting to remote and hybrid work models, it’s risen to the top of the priority list for many companies.

Liam sees a clear connection between autonomy and retention. “The reality is, you need to have as much autonomy as humanly possible without necessarily damaging the large scale operations of your business,” he says. “Anybody who has ever been stuck in the troubleshooting queue for their wireless provider has heard the agent say, ‘Well, I’ve done all four of these things in a row that are on my computer screen, and now I don’t know what to do.'” This is frustrating for the customer, for sure, but Liam points out that it’s a major point of frustration for the agent as well.

But empowering employees to have autonomy and work through problems creatively is not easy, especially when they are remote. That’s where the issue of autonomy versus accountability comes into play.

“Accountability is absolutely critical,” Liam says. “How are you measuring the work that’s being done? Do you have a quantitative KPI that everyone is supposed to reach?”

At Time Doctor, each employee has at least one quantifiable measure of accountability. That one specific metric can help keep employees accountable and help managers feel confident to let employees know they have the ability to work outside the box when necessary.

Working Hard Vs. Working Smart

When employees are empowered, the correlation between hours logged at a desk and overall productivity is not as strong as you might think. This is important to keep in mind, as managers may fret about whether their remote employees are putting in a full shift when they’re at home.

“We found with almost every single company that we’ve worked with—remote or in-office—that the salesperson who works the longest has never been the top salesperson inside of an organization,” Liam says. “So there’s this push up against “work hard” versus “work smart.” Autonomy really comes into play, here: it’s being able to say don’t get locked into the system; don’t get locked down by the process; have a process and allow that process to develop and evolve organically.”

This may be hard for many to accept, but as more businesses embrace the remote or hybrid model, it’s an essential point to keep in mind. Be flexible with processes and don’t get hung up on punching the clock. Embracing the merging of accountability and autonomy will lead to better results for employees and for customers as well.

The Hybrid Reality

Liam sees the hybrid workforce as “where the majority of the market is currently going,” and he sees a unique set of challenges with that model.

Companies need to ensure that they treat their employees the same, whether they are working from home or in the office. Make sure, for example, that in-office employees don’t advance at a faster rate or get more projects greenlit than their remote counterparts. Remote workers should not be seen as second-class citizens, he cautions.

Liam also stresses the importance of documenting everything, to make sure remote workers are briefed on offline discussions. “If you have conversations that kind of happen around the watercooler, you need to document them. Or, at least you need to identify all the minutes of the meeting and put them where people can consume them,” Liam says.

The New Now

So, where am I writing this from? It doesn’t matter very much. I’ve worked closely with my team, both remote and in-office colleagues, and I’ve been given both a metric to measure the success of this piece and the autonomy to write myself into it. How long did it take me? Well, long enough to get it right, but perhaps not as long as I was given. But the fact is, I’m working in the new normal, and you probably are, too. So we embrace The Now of Work and we do our best, learning from experts like Liam how to avoid common pitfalls and building a structure where employees want to stay and thrive.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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2021: The Year of the Cloud

The start of a new year always brings with it the promise of a brighter future. Looking back at 2020, it’s easy to imagine that better days must be ahead. From a work perspective, to say that the past year was incredibly surprising and frustrating would be an understatement. The pandemic threw a sizable wrench into everything everywhere. And you don’t have to go farther than your daily news feed to see that many businesses are still struggling with the adjustments they need to make to continue working in the current environment.

If you’re like most business managers working through those adjustments, you’ve probably had it up to your eyeballs with the phrase “the new normal.” Afterall, at which point does a daily work routine lose its newness and become just plain normal? Obviously, the way we work has changed and it may never be as it was again. So, moving into 2021, we have two options: We can lament the loss of the past or we can embrace the promise of the future.

If you’re an optimist, the adjustments we have all had to make to enable remote working can be seen as the precursors of the brighter future that the new year promises. And 2021 can be the year that you truly leverage the cloud to enable a more efficient and productive operation.

The Need For Business Continuity Drives Change

When business historians look back on 2020, they’ll note that the pandemic created the need for a change to the way we work. And they will probably point out that the adjustments to daily work processes that were needed to maintain business continuity created a paradigm shift to a cloud-first mindset.

The abrupt change from centralized to decentralized work-from-home operations created an urgent demand for technologies that would allow employees to continue to compute, connect, communicate and collaborate from anywhere. While no new technology was invented, cloud-based unified communication and video collaboration technologies that were considered nice-to-have novelties were suddenly in great demand. Enterprises that made the transition were able to do so quickly because companies like Mitel have been promoting the business benefits of the cloud for years, and the systems and solutions needed to enable the shift to the cloud were already available.

Sales and usage skyrocketed. The number of first-time users of video collaboration applications, for example, rose 26.2% in just six months, and the use of mobile apps increased 35% over the same time period. With these and other cloud-based technologies, enterprises maintained business continuity by enabling employees to seamlessly interact with colleagues, partners, suppliers and customers from anywhere.

During that same six months, the cloud became the economic enabler it was always meant to be with increased usage reported for a variety of cloud-based applications:

  • 28.2% jump in first-time use of telemedicine
  • 20.6% increase in first-time use of kiosks
  • 27.5% rise in use of mobile ordering applications
  • 18.4% increase in use of mobile payment applications
  • 22.7% jump in use of alternative payment applications

Moving Forward In The Cloud

Now that the use cases have proven the reliability of the cloud, the adoption of cloud-based technologies by consumers and businesses will continue to increase. At the enterprise level, CIOs and CEOs are already pointing to the path forward.

A global study conducted in 2020 revealed that 95% of companies around the world will continue to keep at least 5% of their workforce home. Meanwhile, IDG Research reports that 48% of enterprise CIOs say that optimizing employee digital experiences is now one of their key priorities. And 37% say that their CEOs have indicated that enabling digital transformation should be a focus as they work through the current disruption.

As enterprises focus on digital transformation, cloud-based communication capabilities that were suddenly in great demand at the start of 2020 will become table stakes in 2021. Therefore, a cloud-first mindset should be the foundation of any enterprise communications strategy. Enterprise managers developing business continuity plans that will see them through any future disruptions should be considering how to integrate cloud-based communications solutions into their operations. With the cloud, enterprises can empower employees to be more connected, efficient and productive wherever they work. Employees can access any feature from anywhere on any device, and the need to go to a physical office will be virtually eliminated.

Beyond these obvious benefits, cloud-based options tick all the boxes on the value chart of what enterprises need from a 21st century communications solution:

  • Agility: Cloud-delivered services can be rolled out as fast as an organization needs them. This enables rapid innovation and reduces time to market with new offerings that meet market demand.
  • Cost efficiency: Enterprises can provision what they need today and then add new features and applications when they need them.
  • Instant access: Employees can use new features as soon as they are available instead of having to wait months or even years to go through testing and refresh processes.
  • Advanced features: By leveraging the virtually limitless processing power and reach of cloud-based systems, new features that harness the potential of AI, IoT, facial recognition and feature-rich video collaboration technologies can be added easily.

Taking The Right Steps

Of course, every enterprise will have a different path to the cloud. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and all enterprises will make the transition at their own pace. Timing should be determined by business need and all requirements should be understood before a migration plan is developed and the first step is taken.

To make the process smoother, make an effort to understand the communications needs of your employees and your customers. Both groups can provide valuable insights based on first-hand experience with your existing communication infrastructure and where it can be improved to meet their needs. By building a culture of partnership and understanding, there is a better chance that the cloud solution you implement will deliver the productivity, efficiency and customer service benefits your business needs.

Likewise, as you embrace the promise of a cloud-based future, take a hard look at all your cloud options. The word “cloud” is a very broad term with multiple definitions and not all cloud-based communications solutions are created equal. Understanding the difference between a public cloud that provides software as a service (SaaS), a private cloud dedicated to your organization and a hybrid cloud that mixes on-premises and private cloud resources is critical. With that understanding, you’ll be better equipped to map out a cloud strategy and define a normal business communications environment that is tailored to your unique operation and business continuity requirements.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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Shifting to a Cloud-First Mentality

It’s going to happen. At some point in the not-too-distant future and after years of faithful service, your on-premises business communications system will reach the end of its useful life. Maintaining and upgrading the hardware may become difficult or just won’t make financial sense. Updating the software may no longer be the path to all those advanced features you need to maintain efficiency and productivity. The reality of diminishing returns will kick in and you’ll find yourself considering a new system.

Like most business managers at this crossroad, you’ll be faced with two potential paths to follow. On one hand you could replace the aging communications system with a brand new, on-premises solution and go through all the deployment, configuration and adjustment processes that go with that system. On the other hand, you could eliminate all the time and effort associated with moving to another on-premises system and chart a new business path with a cloud-based communications solution.

While there are a variety of considerations associated with moving to the cloud, the speed of innovation and ability to integrate other business tools with cloud-based systems makes a shift-to-a-cloud-first thought process the best option.

Take The First Step To Digital Transformation

Obviously, there’s no sense making the transition to the cloud just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Although most businesses will eventually migrate to a cloud-based communications system, that move has to make business sense. The end of life of an on-premises system provides the perfect opportunity to examine existing work processes and determine if a business case can be made for a cloud-based solution.

It’s also no secret that a flexible and agile cloud infrastructure makes it easier to adapt to an ever-changing market environment. If nothing else, the pandemic has demonstrated the ease of access and speed to activation that cloud technologies provide. Enterprises that were already leveraging cloud-based communications systems were able to easily make the transition to a remote working normal. Those that were not taking advantage of some form of cloud technology were left playing catch up.

But a cloud-based communications solution provides more than the ability to quickly address a specific situation. As the foundation of an enterprise operation, an agile, cloud-based communications system enables all the interactions that fuel business success. It provides the technology needed to streamline interactions between employees and with partners and suppliers. With unified communication and collaboration tools, it can increase efficiency and improve customer service.

Beyond the day-to-day operational benefits, a cloud-based communications system can also be the anchor of a digital technology strategy that leverages a variety of Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings to transform all business operations. As noted by ZK Research in a recent white paper, “the one technology that should be considered the foundation for digital transformation is communications, as it’s at the heart of digital initiatives.”

Key Considerations On The Road To The Cloud

There are multiple cloud options, and cloud migration strategies will vary from one enterprise to another. But there are four fundamental things that you should keep in mind when considering a cloud-based communications solution.

At the top of the list should be availability requirements. Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Do you need business hours availability or do you need your system to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year?
  • If there is an outage, what will be the impact to your business? Minor or significant? Most cloud implementations don’t require 99.999 percent availability, so be realistic about your requirements.

In addition to availability, consider whether a customized implementation is necessary or if the base package of a cloud-based system can meet immediate business needs and support future SaaS integrations. While some SaaS tools require complex customization, most make up for the heavy lift of customizing software by enabling easy integration with other SaaS tools that provide efficiency and productivity gains. Keep in mind that highly customized systems can sometimes slow support response because they don’t follow the typical scripts IT teams are trained to handle. This requires greater expertise that may not be readily available or easily accessed when it’s needed.

Change management after migration should also be a key consideration. Keeping systems up to date is important for information security and to ensure that your employees are always working with the most current capabilities the system has to offer. Most cloud-based systems are largely self-updating and provide access to new capabilities more regularly. Typically, these updates don’t require intervention by IT staff to implement or roll back plans if things go wrong.

Finally, take a hard look at total cost of ownership by factoring in whether or not your new cloud-based system will require more IT staff to support it. Consider the staffing costs in addition to the hardware resource costs. If you don’t want to increase IT staff, think about your existing team and whether adding cloud technology to the mix will create additional stress by increasing workloads. Typically, cloud-based systems can usually be supported by one or two people, and they don’t necessarily have to be system experts. 

Look Beyond Immediate Requirements

As you stand at the crossroads of on-premises and cloud, shift your thinking to a cloud-first mentality. Consider the big picture by looking beyond immediate needs and factoring future evolution into your thought process.

A move to a cloud-based communications system can be the first step in a digital transformation strategy. At the outset, a purpose-built cloud solution will provide unified and scalable communications to anyone, anywhere and on any device. It will take communications capabilities to the next level by enabling more mobility, rich enterprise and team collaboration and exceptional customer experiences, without the cost and complexity of scaling traditional, premises-based communications systems to meet evolving business needs. Further down the road, the same system can provide the flexibility and scalability to integrate with a variety of SaaS business support and productivity tools to enable a complete transformation of business processes.

And remember that there is no one-size-fits-all cloud solution, so avoid menu-based offerings and get a cloud-based system that is custom fit to your business.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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