Tag - Business Continuity

“Coffee Shop” Etiquette in the Age of the Cloud Phone

Working remotely is so common nowadays that we’ve all but forgotten that once upon a time the main reason people visited a coffee shop was to (gasp) drink coffee. Today, remote workers have spilled out of this cozy comfort zone and truly work anywhere – from airport lounges and train stations to parks and public libraries.

The driving factor behind the “work anywhere” trend is technology. Today’s mobile workers have sleek cloud phones that enable them to perform all of their work functions and access all of their work documents. No more clunky laptop. No fluttering papers to carry. From co-working locations like WeWork to public transportation hot spots, cloud business phone systems such as MiCloud Connect make it easy for employees to keep working regardless of location.

This also means we’ve come a long way from a couple of working professionals sharing the coffee shop with people who are only there to sip a hot beverage. With 70 percent of employees working out of the office at least one day a week, and 53 percent working remotely at least half the week, your favorite remote spot is likely to get more crowded.

When you’re surrounded by others trying to get work done, the dynamics change. There’s more noise, less table space and a greater chance of overhearing private conversations. But a few guidelines of “coffee shop” etiquette can help us all share the same place amicably. As you jet between your favorite spots, keep the following in mind.

5 Ways To Practice ‘Coffee Shop’ Etiquette Using A Cloud Phone

Choose a prime location. Whether you’re traveling for work or just stepping away from your home office for a change of scenery, you’ll almost always have a couple of options for places to work. Pick the one that best matches your to-do list. If you plan to check emails and share files for a project, a library or museum can be a great choice. If you need to make some calls, a co-working location is better, since those around you will be more understanding of your need to make a little noise. The main thing to remember here is to plan ahead and think about what you need to get done, then choose the remote spot that’s appropriate.

Keep it down. Your cloud phone’s mobile-first design lets you do anything and everything you can do from the office, all while sipping your latte. But keep your surroundings in mind – and know what’s polite in each environment. If you’re in the library when a colleague asks for a quick video conference, suggest a group chat session instead. You can still converse with colleagues in real time, share a screen and collaborate, all without holding a lengthy – and potentially loud – conversation. If you do need to jump on a call, step outside and join quickly with single-click access. Be mindful of your speaking volume so those around you can continue with their work undisturbed. And don’t forget your colleagues on the other end of the virtual meeting. If you’re calling from a noisy location, like an airport or train station, mute your line.

Don’t be a space hog. If you’re working alone, don’t be greedy and grab the biggest table in the place. Only bring what you really need. For example, if you’re using Mitel Teamwork, you can use the mobile application to collaborate with colleagues right from your smartphone. Share files, virtually chat and review your personal dashboard to stay on top of upcoming tasks. Let’s put it this way: If you don’t need your laptop, charger or other clunky equipment, leave it at home and sit comfortably at a table designed for one.

Protect company information. When working in public spaces, it’s important to be cognizant of where you are and who’s around you. A shared workspace with people from other companies isn’t the place to hold a call discussing confidential business matters. Book a conference room or work from the privacy of your hotel if you’re traveling. If you’re using public WiFi, keep your business data secure by turning off sharing settings and making sure your firewall is enabled. Your cloud phone comes with built-in VPN – use it. Also, use a secure password to lock your cloud phone. That way, company data remains secure if the device gets lost.

Watch the clock. Anyone can wear out their welcome, even when they’re on a first name basis with the proprietor. Working from your favorite java stop should be a break from routine – not how you spend your entire workday. Check some emails, group chat with colleagues, even collaborate on the latest project and share files. But if you came in for breakfast and the 3 p.m. caffeine-rush crowd is pouring in, it’s probably time to pack up and leave. If you know you have several hours of work to do, choose a location where camping out is more acceptable, such as the local library. Speaking of the clock, be sure to time calls so they’re not starting when you’re about to board a train or hailing a cab to your next meeting. Allow yourself time to settle in, start the call on time and give proper attention to your colleagues.

The ability to work from multiple locations without skipping a beat is a beautiful thing. But it does require some basic etiquette if you want to get work done and let others around you do the same. These simple guidelines keep things friendly and productive for everyone.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Hosted Phone Comparison: Figuring Out Which Features You Really Need

HOSTED PHONE COMPARISON: FIGURING OUT WHICH FEATURES YOU REALLY NEED

You know it’s time. Your phone system is a mishmash of hardware and software. Your staff is making business calls on their personal phones. And the third-party service you use for conference calls is clunky and unreliable.

You also know if you’re going to grow your business, you’ve got to improve how your team communicates and collaborates. Buying new hardware isn’t in the budget and, besides, you’re worried it would have to be upgraded by the time it was installed.

Why Hosted VoIP Phone Service?

With the bandwidth and reliability of internet service today, more small- and medium-sized businesses are turning to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone services like MiCloud Connect. This unified communications solution is hosted in the cloud, giving SMBs the power and functionality that in the past only large companies could afford.

But as with any major change – especially ones involving technology – things can get confusing. Because many communications providers offer an à la carte approach to features and pricing, not spending time researching up front can waste time and cost you more in the long run.

Hosted Phone Comparison — Where To Begin?

It’s a little like buying a new car. You know the features you like most, the “must haves” that you’ve come to love in your present car, things like heated seats or hands-free phone. But slide into the driver’s seat of a late model vehicle and you can be overwhelmed. Lots of new bells and whistles. How do you decide which are important, which are distracting and which just aren’t worth the money?

To start, think about where your company is now. Answer these questions and you’ll begin to zero in on the features most important to your business.

  • Which features of your current system are most useful?
    For instance, speed dial or call forwarding?
  • Who are your users?
    Do you have team members on the road, in the warehouse, in conference rooms, at their desks or in a contact center?
  • What are the communications needs of each of these user groups?
    Do they need better collaboration tools? Mobile solutions?
  • What are the pain points for these user groups?
    Or put another way, what’s the current system not providing? If employees are using their own mobile devices or third-party apps, find out why. What do they offer that your current communications system doesn’t?
  • What part of your current system do you want to keep?
    Most hosted phone service providers can customize solutions to sit on top of your present infrastructure. Why reinvent the wheel, or buy a new one, if you’ve got pieces that still work?

With this information in hand, you’re ready to consider all the features available with a hosted phone service. Which is good, because there are a lot of features. And like that new car, some you need and some you don’t.

Example #1: Law Firm

Barbara is the managing partner of a law firm with over 70 lawyers in three locations. Their telecommunications system has been creaky for some time. Consequently, they’re not as customer responsive as they need to be in a very competitive marketplace. Barbara chose these features when the firm moved to a hosted phone service.

Mobility.

Attorneys and staff are on the move all the time – at client’s offices, in court or at offsite meetings. With VoIP they can communicate seamlessly with any device that has an internet connection – smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops. Users access the firm’s communications system via a secure, proprietary web portal. The interface is also consistent across all devices.

Conference calls.

Whether they’re on audio or video, staff can easily manage conference calls with the click of a button. All participants can share screens and files. And with a quick text, they can even pull another colleague into the call.

Call recording.

Another useful feature is the ability to record both individual calls and conference calls. Now staffers can easily go back over the details of any phone conversation.

Visual voicemail and email. When attorneys are running between meetings, catching up on voicemail is challenging. Now voicemails are transcribed and sent to the email box of the receiver. It’s easy to listen again to a long voicemail, forward it to another staff member or file it for future reference.

Presence management. 

Ever tried to hunt down a colleague when you needed a quick answer? Leaving voicemails just doesn’t do it. To really close the loop, you need to know where they are and if they’re even available. With presence technology, a receiver can notify others of their availability. Maybe they can’t answer the phone but can reply to a text or email. It all helps get an answer to the client that much faster.

Example #2: Software Start-Up

Nicolas started his software business five years ago with three friends from college. Now, with almost 200 employees across three continents, it’s time to choose a telecommunications system to meet the needs of the growing company. You don’t want bumpy conference calls when that venture capitalist calls.

Like Barbara’s law firm, mobility was near the top of Nicolas’s “need to have” list of features. For too long, the company had relied on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), but inconsistency and poor responsiveness became major issues. Here are the features Nicolas’s IT manager chose when they set up their hosted phone service.

Collaboration and teamwork. 

Central to the business’s success is the ability of employees to work together easily, no matter their location. As part of the new hosted phone configuration, collaboration and teamwork software helps engineers in Bangalore, San Jose and Riga work on projects across time zones. This feature provides a shared workspace where team members can communicate, share files, chat, set up conference calls, track progress and assign tasks.

Call center.

Before implementing hosted phone service, the company was losing almost 40 percent of customer calls. Now calls are routed to the right person the first time. Agents can communicate with customers via live chat, phone or email. The new system also enables supervisors to monitor calls in real time and coach agents on how to improve.

Remote workers.

Employees working outside the company’s main offices can now connect easily and reliably via a dedicated web portal. Using VoIP, they can respond to colleagues and customers anywhere in the world. That also means the company can recruit talent from all over the globe.

Integration with third-party software.

A key feature for Nicolas’s growing company is the ability to integrate third-party applications into its communications tools, like customer relationship management (CRM) software. Call center agents can respond to customers more effectively and sales can see real-time metrics. By integrating other applications like browsers and Microsoft Outlook, employees can make calls with one-click.

Choose the right vendor.

After you’ve decided which features are most important to your business, be sure to choose a vendor that can make things happen easily and within your budget. Look for these capabilities in a hosted phone provider.

Support from beginning to end.

Many vendors talk a good game when the sale is on the line. Many even do a good job during installation and training. But ask around. Is their customer support available 24/7? Via phone, live chat and email? They need to be there when your customers and employees need them most.

Industry leader.

Has the vendor led the way in innovation and product development? Or has it only recently jumped on the wagon? Look into how stable the company is and how long it’s been in the communications business.

Flexible and responsive.

Choosing a hosted phone service is not a “one-size-fits-all” proposition. Quite the opposite. You want a vendor who will create a solution unique to your company.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Making sure your communications investment will lead to a stronger and more successful business. Mitel offers a suite of hosted phone service products that will make your business the best it can be.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Smart Workspaces Work Smarter Not Harder

The traditional notion of a 9-to-5 workspace has drastically changed. No longer are employees chained to their desk. Instead, they can work from anywhere, often at hours of their choosing. Today’s workspace moves with the employee, whether it’s to a mid-morning session at Starbucks, aboard an Amtrak train or even a midnight email check after a school band concert.

While many factors are behind the rise of these smart workspaces, there’s one main ingredient required to make them succeed: the right communications technology. Let’s explore the smart workspace in more detail and see how you can set up your business to meet this growing employee expectation.

What Is A Smart Workspace?

In today’s world, the term “workspace” no longer conjures an image of employees sitting at their desks, surrounded by cubicle walls, pecking away at their keyboards for eight hours straight. Workspaces have evolved, and today’s “smart” version allows employees to get their work done from any location, using any device. A smart workspace transcends the physical boundaries of the cubicle and office, creating an environment of collaboration and communication that fosters productivity and increases employee satisfaction.

Flexibility: More than half (51 percent) of employees want their companies to offer more flexible work options, according to a recent study. Flexible options include telecommuting and the freedom to work outside of traditional business hours.

Work-life balance: Your workers don’t want to miss out on their kid’s soccer game or burn the candle at both ends. More employees consider work-life balance to be increasingly important, and fewer people are willing to sacrifice it for their job.

Millennials: By 2020, which is right around the corner, Millennials will make up more than half of the workforce. That number is expected to hit 75 percent by 2025. This generation is tech-savvy, demands flexibility and thrives on collaboration.

Next Steps For A Digital Workspace Transformation

Businesses that want to attract and retain top talent have no choice but to embrace smart workspaces. Gartner predicts that by 2020, organizations that let workers choose their own style of work will increase retention rates by more than 10 percent. Already, a unified communications system with a robust suite of collaboration tools can provide a smart workspace for your employees. Such suites offer:

  • A single application for voice, video, messaging, audio conferencing and more so employees can easily switch between channels on the fly.
  • A consistent experience across devices.
  • Mobile-first design that supports both iOS and Android.
  • Audio conferencing and web sharing to promote collaboration.
  • Single number reach, making employees accessible on any device.
  • Individual and group chat to keep the lines of communication open.
  • File and screen sharing, which make it easy to keep team members up-to-date on projects.
  • Secure remote access so employees can work from anywhere without having to worry about confidential company information.
  • Multi-region and multi-language support, to provide employees around the world with access to the same unified experience.

Not only do such systems meet the demands of your employees, they benefit the business as well. Teams communicate more efficiently and effectively, easily sharing ideas and files. Managers make decisions more quickly and increase productivity. By keeping your employees connected on-the-go, you’ll keep up with today’s fast-paced business world. And, you’ll break down silos between departments and locations. In other words, smart workspaces are just as good for the bottom line as they are for employee satisfaction and retention.

If your business isn’t already part of the smart workspace culture, it’s time to start transforming. A powerful suite of collaboration tools that gives employees access to everything they need to do their work—no matter where they are or what device they’re on—is the main ingredient for success. The right unified communications solution provides a seamless experience for all employees, breaking down barriers, fostering collaboration and resulting in smarter business decisions made in less time. A smart workspace really is a “no brainer.”

Interested in details about smart workspaces and how they can help your team and business excel? Find out more about the collaboration solutions offered by Mitel.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Healthcare Health Check: How To Stabilise Your Business Vitals With UC

Healthcare Health Check: How To Stabilise Your Business Vitals With UC

To do more with less, the NHS and many private clinics delay upgrading their communications technology if their legacy system continues to function. And limited budgets and staffing shortages provide easy excuses for large hospitals and small clinics alike to continue putting off upgrades year after year.

But the emergence of innovative technology – robust cloud solutions, next-gen apps and more – provides incredible new opportunities. When leveraged strategically and cost-effectively, these technologies can help the NHS and private healthcare providers tackle challenges like the growing elderly population and the upcoming ISDN shutdown, among many others.

How Unified Communications Can Help

Investing in different solutions that don’t work together or with your existing infrastructure can be costly. For better patient care and overall performance, deploy a Unified Communications (UC) solution at your own pace that addresses multiple staff and patient needs and fully integrates with your existing system.

Ensure the solution delivers in all key areas including:

Increased staff responsiveness

Mobile collaboration apps integrated with your organisation’s telephony make staff easier to reach and collaborate with. By reducing wasted time and miscommunication, the apps enable staff to focus more on personalised patient care. In addition, you can mobilise staff and other experts in an instant if there’s an emergency with a patient.

Improved resiliency and security

A modern UC solution on a resilient network minimises system downtime and disruption, saving IT staff valuable time and effort while also keeping patient medical records more secure. This provides peace of mind and ensures your organisation complies with regulations.

Greater cost control

Maintaining obsolete equipment, finding replacement parts and staffing a large IT department to handle everything – including resolving frequent issues – is extremely expensive. The right UC solution for your unique needs, whether that’s on-site, in the cloud or a hybrid, requires much less maintenance and effort.

No matter if you’re a small private clinic or a public hospital with hundreds of scattered sites, a modern and robust UC solution enables you to provide better patient care, ensure resiliency and stay within budget. Look for a communications vendor with a long history of experience in healthcare that can help you digitally transform at pace that’s right for you.

Upgrade At Your Own Pace

Most importantly, find a provider like Mitel that lets you move at your own pace, upgrading and adding functionality gradually and cost-effectively. No need to rip and replace—and face an enormous price tag. Plus, this method is easier on your IT staff because it enables them to do their due diligence and get trained on each new technology without being overwhelmed and over-worked.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Meet AI: Your New Virtual Contact Center Assistant

It turns out the Jetsons, Star Wars and WALL-E all had it right.

For decades, people have dreamed about robot helpers and predicted their imminent arrival. With today’s growing use of artificial intelligence (AI), it seems their time has finally come.

Statistics tell the story. Some 59 percent of organizations have already deployed some form of AI, according to a recent Gartner survey. Within the next year, the number of AI projects should double. For enterprise companies, the main driver of AI adoption is improving the customer experience, although their vision goes beyond chatbots answering basic customer questions. More than half (56 percent) of organizations use AI to help employees make better decisions and provide a superior level of customer service.

This is where AI within the contact center comes into play. It does more than simply provide faster customer service. Today’s AI technology has grown to the point where it fills numerous roles and wears several hats.

Let’s explore how businesses can benefit from AI’s advanced use in today’s high-performing contact centers.

AI As The Trainer

If you run a typical contact center, chances are you have a high volume of calls coming in each day, answered by a team comprised of both veteran and rookie agents. Businesses are always working to improve the quality of customer interactions, of course, and typically they’ve done this by recording and analyzing conversations, then providing feedback to specific employees or the entire team. While this approach gets the job done, it takes time. That means it can be a while before your agents get the feedback they need to improve.

AI introduces real-time training through virtual agents. These are similar to chatbots, except they’re powered by AI technology. Whether a customer begins their journey with a virtual agent or goes straight to a human, virtual agents monitor interactions via speech or text, “listening” to the words exchanged and their sentiment. In real time, virtual agents coach human reps, making sure they deliver a customer experience that’s not only efficient and effective, but also on-brand and on-message.

The implications of real-time coaching are significant. Supervisors are freed up to perform other work, and an agent who may only be a week into their job can handle calls just as well as a 10-year veteran. Customers enjoy a consistent, positive interaction regardless of the agent’s experience level. And, the benefits extend to the agents themselves, since they can now avoid the frustration that comes with a new job and demanding customers who want fast answers.

AI As The Data Collector

Without data, you can’t improve your level of customer service. You need to know what your customers want and why they’re contacting you so you can prepare your agents with appropriate information and resources. However, all that data is useless if you don’t have the means to analyze it and put it to use.

AI technologies such as natural language processing (NLP) interpret data and provide analysis around areas such as:

  • Why customers contact you
  • Ways you can improve your products and services
  • The availability of information to customers

This kind of data lets you move beyond efficiency and actually improve your overall customer experience and satisfaction levels. More importantly, real-time insights allow you to adapt to customers’ preferences quickly – and stay ahead of the competition.

AI As The Assistant

Contact centers need assistance in more ways than one, and AI helps with them all. In addition to real-time coaching, AI chatbots provide faster and more personalized customer service. AI virtual agents can interpret and access customer data, so they can handle more inquiries on their own, freeing up human agents to handle complex calls.

Machine learning enables AI bots to determine when a customer is getting frustrated and needs a human touch. When this happens, customers aren’t placed in a random queue. Rather, AI technology routes their call to the most qualified person and, at the same time, provides them with a full transcript of the conversation. That saves customers from the nuisance of having to repeat themselves.

Once a human is involved, AI technology assists in the background. Bots monitor the conversation and present the human agent with relevant information that helps them satisfy the customer. From product information to weather forecasts, the virtual agent can access both internal and external data to make sure the customer has a smooth and pleasant experience.

It’s now possible for your contact center to have a “Rosie” of its own, just like the Jetsons. AI technology provides real-time coaching, advanced analytics and real-time assistance to create a more personalized customer experience and a stronger, well-armed team of contact center agents. Start taking advantage of AI technology today by working with a provider that’s committed to innovation and provides the latest advantages that AI can bring to your contact center.

Interested in adding AI to your contact center? Learn more about the Mitel and Google Cloud partnership.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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RE:Invent(ing) Video Collaboration

REINVENT(ING) VIDEO COLLABORATION

Delegating is an essential part of success in today’s fast-paced, mobile marketplace. Unless it’s organized by the right people, at the right time, it can become more of a burden than a benefit. Delegating work to other people sounds great in theory, but we can sometimes struggle to release control. Who should be working on what? Was the previous task completed? What is the current status of that project?

It takes time to send out assignments, but you can’t do everything yourself. Having help gives you greater freedom in your day. With less work on your plate, you can better prioritize your own goals. Before you can reach that point, a system must be put in place to ensure all delegated work is completed in a timely manner.

For a business to succeed, it needs to be able to communicate and collaborate seamlessly and effortlessly, as if all members of the team were in the same room, especially when they cannot be. Eighty-six percent of workers reported that a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication was responsible for workplace failures and almost 15 percent of total work time is wasted because of ineffective or inefficient communications.

Today, employees tend to use multiple disconnected applications to interact with each other, scattering essential information required for delegating responsibilities across multiple platforms. Using different systems makes delegating a slow and bumpy ride. With a single system to create and assign tasks, message as well as share work, you can ensure your team is on the ball.

Workspaces

Delegating is made easier with Mitel Teamwork, where you can create focused group workspaces based on projects or teams, either public or private. Accessible by PC as well as the mobile app, team members can be updated from anywhere, at any time. Send messages and track conversations, share content and files plus add new members to workspaces as required. Working as a team is made simple, keeping information flowing through your organization seamlessly, in one place, so that work can get done faster, smarter, without getting bogged down by email chains.

Messaging

Equipping employees with virtual workspaces, Teamwork is a place where employees can come together to work closely and communicate effectively from anywhere. Send group messages to announce updates to team members, as well as alert specific users with @mentions, even start a conference call, if necessary. The mobile app for iOS and Android enables teams to always stay connected, with conversations mirrored across all devices. Mitel Teamwork provides organizations with a place where employees can message and interact with each other, but it’s more than just a messaging app.

Tasks

Virtual workspaces allow teams to collaborate from anywhere, to create and assign tasks, set priorities, check progress, and ensure everyone is kept up to date, from anyplace, at any time. Personal dashboards for every user ensure they are always in the loop, alerting them to what activities require immediate attention. Data can be stored or archived by project, subject or person.

Helping to improve the speed and quality of decisions being made within your organization, Teamwork simplifies the way employees chat, meet and share information with others by bringing together messaging and collaboration tools into a single solution, empowering teams to be productive from anywhere.

The seamless flow of information throughout your team is what can help you delegate responsibilities and ensure that all projects are successful in today’s fast-paced, mobile marketplace.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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AI Is Revolutionising The Customer Experience

AI Is Revolutionising The Customer Experience

Like it or not, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. Sometimes it’s obvious—like when a chatbot pops up on a website and offers help. But AI is being used in ways we may not even realize. The question isn’t when AI will begin to play a role in our everyday lives; it already is. Rather, we should be asking whether or not we are using it to its full capacity.

Everyone Wants It: Consumers, CIOs, CMOs

Consumers are increasingly aware of AI-powered tools and say they’ll use them if they save time and money, reports Gartner. In a recent study, 58 percent of respondents said they’ll use AI if it makes tasks more efficient. Over half (53 percent) said they’ll use AI if it will save them money, and 47 percent are on-board if it gives them easier access to information.

This willingness to engage with AI-driven services has caught the attention of IT leaders and marketing executives alike. Forty-one percent of IT professionals believe AI and machine learning (ML) will help their organizations improve the customer experience (CX), according to a study by Adobe. Respondents also cited other technologies that will have an impact, including the Internet of Things (22 percent), voice (14 percent), virtual and augmented realities (12 percent) and chatbot technology (11 percent).

Companies already using AI in digital commerce are rather pleased, reports another Gartner study. About 70 percent of digital commerce businesses say their AI programs are “very or extremely successful.” In fact, respondents reported a 19 percent increase in customer satisfaction and a 15 percent improvement in both revenue and cost.

Personalizing The Customer Experience

Most of us are familiar with targeted advertising that tells marketers what shoppers are looking for. But AI is now used to aggregate a wide range of data to personalize interactions with customers. AI programs collect information about location, search history, time (days, dates, time of day) and product to then suggest items to consumers. Catering to each person is the next frontier—and not only in advertising.

Within the context of a self-service customer experience, AI is capable of handling the type of personalized interactions that humans have usually handled, such as sales, service or support. When a customer visits a business website, they are greeted with customized options powered by the company’s AI analytics.

Faster Customer Service

Chatbots are also an example of AI-powered tools that are speeding up human-machine interaction. As they continue to grow in sophistication and effectiveness, these bots have the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize and learn from past experiences.

For example, tapping into customer data, an intelligent chat or speech bot is capable of holding a personalized – and human-like – conversation with the customer.

With machine learning, chatbots recognize common words and phrases related to specific issues, and then recommend help articles that are most useful to the customer or agent. They are also able to route the user toward the human most qualified to answer their query.

Even when the virtual agent seamlessly hands off the customer to a human agent, it does so with all information intact. The human agent picks up where the virtual agent ends, and the customer doesn’t need to repeat themselves.

Crunching The Data

Probably the most obvious and powerful use of AI is to analyze the enormous amount of data captured through technology today. Businesses are using AI to improve CX by evaluating interactions and integrating data from numerous sources. Predictive AI-driven analytics helps track and analyze customer trends and behaviors faster.

One example is reinforcement learning, an AI/ML tool that “rewards” the algorithm when it achieves the best behavior or action, enabling it to learn quickly on its own. It continuously tries different actions to figure out which delivers the best outcome in the long term, explains Tiffany Carpenter, head of customer intelligence for SAS UK & Ireland. It even performs random actions intermittently to test the model and be sure it is up-to-date.

Humans + Machines

Thought leaders agree that the human element is essential when working with AI. It’s not an either/or proposition. Humans are needed to create the core marketing messages, draw insights from data and make decisions. “The future lies not in a battle between people and machines, but in a synthesis of their capabilities, of humans and AI working together,” notes Helen Poitevin, research senior director at Gartner.

For many technologies, the future seems far in the distance. Yet, AI is already enhancing customer interactions today. The most competitive organizations are pushing the boundaries of the technology. That means the revolution is well underway—and stellar customer experiences are closer than you might think.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Delegating Projects with Mitel Teamwork

Delegating is an essential part of success in today’s fast-paced, mobile marketplace. Unless it’s organized by the right people, at the right time, it can become more of a burden than a benefit. Delegating work to other people sounds great in theory, but we can sometimes struggle to release control. Who should be working on what? Was the previous task completed? What is the current status of that project?

It takes time to send out assignments, but you can’t do everything yourself. Having help gives you greater freedom in your day. With less work on your plate, you can better prioritize your own goals. Before you can reach that point, a system must be put in place to ensure all delegated work is completed in a timely manner.

For a business to succeed, it needs to be able to communicate and collaborate seamlessly and effortlessly, as if all members of the team were in the same room, especially when they cannot be. Eighty-six percent of workers reported that a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication was responsible for workplace failures and almost 15 percent of total work time is wasted because of ineffective or inefficient communications.

Today, employees tend to use multiple disconnected applications to interact with each other, scattering essential information required for delegating responsibilities across multiple platforms. Using different systems makes delegating a slow and bumpy ride. With a single system to create and assign tasks, message as well as share work, you can ensure your team is on the ball.

Workspaces

Delegating is made easier with Mitel Teamwork, where you can create focused group workspaces based on projects or teams, either public or private. Accessible by PC as well as the mobile app, team members can be updated from anywhere, at any time. Send messages and track conversations, share content and files plus add new members to workspaces as required. Working as a team is made simple, keeping information flowing through your organization seamlessly, in one place, so that work can get done faster, smarter, without getting bogged down by email chains.

Messaging

Equipping employees with virtual workspaces, Teamwork is a place where employees can come together to work closely and communicate effectively from anywhere. Send group messages to announce updates to team members, as well as alert specific users with @mentions, even start a conference call, if necessary. The mobile app for iOS and Android enables teams to always stay connected, with conversations mirrored across all devices. Mitel Teamwork provides organizations with a place where employees can message and interact with each other, but it’s more than just a messaging app.

Tasks

Virtual workspaces allow teams to collaborate from anywhere, to create and assign tasks, set priorities, check progress, and ensure everyone is kept up to date, from anyplace, at any time. Personal dashboards for every user ensure they are always in the loop, alerting them to what activities require immediate attention. Data can be stored or archived by project, subject or person.

Helping to improve the speed and quality of decisions being made within your organization, Teamwork simplifies the way employees chat, meet and share information with others by bringing together messaging and collaboration tools into a single solution, empowering teams to be productive from anywhere.

The seamless flow of information throughout your team is what can help you delegate responsibilities and ensure that all projects are successful in today’s fast-paced, mobile marketplace.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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5 Best Practices For Digital Transformation Success And Speed

5 BEST PRACTICES FOR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION SUCCESS AND SPEED

Originally published by Information Management.

Digital transformation, or DX, is everywhere—from hospitality to retail to the enterprise. But because technology implementation moves quickly, it’s no secret that speed is the currency for companies undergoing digital transformation.

In actuality, moving business operations to more digital and user-savvy functionality is much easier said than done. So, without getting lost in the process, how exactly can companies execute this transformation swiftly and successfully?

Companies should consider the following best practices when looking to implement a successful and speedy organization-wide strategy:

1. Engage People From The Beginning

Digital transformation is about people, data and technology. The people factor, if overlooked, can be dooming for a DX strategy. Businesses need to excite and inform their employees about these objectives by including them from the start.

As a natural driver of cultural change, digital transformation stands to impact not only the way a business operates, but also the way the business thinks about operations. It requires a culture that is open to change and continuous improvement.

First and foremost, companies must work with employees to connect them with tools that foster productivity and a collaboration platform that enables efficient communications. This keeps projects on pace by enabling employees to leverage the power of their combined knowledge to increase productivity.

Another way to improve productivity is by automating processes where possible to relieve some of employees’ workloads. This will give them more bandwidth to spend time doing meaningful work, such as collaborating with colleagues and interfacing with customers.

Organizations enacting these kinds of changes will have higher chances of success if they make the effort to involve employees from the get-go and clearly communicate how the changes stand to improve day-to-day work.

2. Align On Objectives And Establish Clear Goals

This is a consideration not talked about in the industry nearly enough. It’s easy for this step to slip through the cracks, but it’s essential for teams to establish a baseline and determine what they’re hoping to accomplish with their DX initiatives.

Companies that have an agreed upon answer to the question, “what is the end goal?” will have a strong foundation for determining focused next steps. Identifying the end goal helps companies prioritize their projects and next steps, which subsequently informs the roadmap they will use to track their projects.

It is also helpful for keeping individual teams on track throughout their projects by serving as a reference point to remind them of what their project should ultimately achieve. Is it about customer success, or partner enablement? By doing this up-front, companies will have less internal friction, which in turn will give them room to act on multiple parallel initiatives within the program that all map back to the same goal.

Once an initiative is complete, this also provides a clear benchmark that will serve to prove whether the initiative was a success and help to identify any outstanding needs.

3. Think Business-First

CIOs and IT departments are best-equipped to lead technology transformation as a trusted arm of the business; however, it is extremely important for them to approach this with a business-first mindset.

Companies should create a balanced IT department that includes both technology experts and business-minded professionals. By combining business with IT, the team will have both the technical skills required for the project and the necessary business context to keep the team focused on the end-goal (i.e. customer needs and organizational goals). This enables more efficient processes, which is something we at Mitel discovered very early on when undergoing the beginning stages of our own digital transformation.

To combat this, we created the IT Business Technology group to combine the strengths of IT experts and business-minded professionals to move our digital transformation forward.

4. Synchronize Efforts

With speed as the currency for a successful digital transformation, business leaders should expect to have many projects happening at once. They are tasked with managing multiple projects in parallel streams to further increase speed and ensure teams are staying on track to meet deadlines.

Understanding this is extremely important, particularly for global companies that need to be cautious not to discount added synchronization challenges that come with working across regions and addressing customer needs that vary accordingly.

At any organization, there are also bound to be times when projects compete for the same resources from both the IT and business sides. Additionally, teams need to work together to proactively address potential availability issues with key systems and platforms that need to be operational for the project’s go live date. This is a smart way to avoid issues both as multiple teams are completing projects and when they reach the Go Live date.

A big factor to success with synchronized efforts is enabling employees to work together throughout the process of managing multiple projects at one time (another reason communication and collaboration are crucial for success). It will be key for business leaders managing a number of DX projects to keep these factors in mind.

5. Make It Easy For Customers And Partners

With many DX initiatives – including ours at Mitel – the end goal is customer success. While a company’s product or solution is traditionally considered the most important factor in customer satisfaction, the customer’s experience reaching out to support during or after the purchasing process is just as important.

Companies need to ask themselves, “What kind of tools can we give our customers/partners to improve their experience doing business with our organization?” Whether it’s a customer or partner portal or an online store or ticketing system, companies need to assess whether they are effectively providing customers and partners with an efficient way of doing business with them. What is their experience on the platform? What kinds of automation tools would improve their experience?

Companies should provide customers and partners with an easy, automated way to interact with them if they want to buy a service or need support.

Organizations need to consider all of the above best practices for a successful, speedy digital transformation. As with any technology implementation, a full organization-wide DX effort requires that business leaders establish goals, give employees the tools they need, and always keep customers and partners top of mind.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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The Customer Experience Rules In Real Estate

In our increasingly digital age of constant connectivity, consumers have been conditioned to expect immediate access to information. Within the highly competitive real estate industry, it’s always a challenge to keep the balance between making profit while delivering excellent customer service.

Despite the economic downturn, the UK property market is still growing. Turnover was £69.5 billion in 2018, ranking real estate fourth place (with Countrywide plc registered the largest revenue in 2018, at £627 million). The number of real estate enterprises increased by 3.6% annually from 2010 to 2017, with 96,113 enterprises registered in 2017.

Why Is The Customer Experience So Crucial?

Prioritising the customer experience (CX) is a key differentiator to success in the property sector. Buying, selling or even renting a house can be a stressful time, and customers will have questions, concerns, suggestions and requests for updates that they want answers to immediately. A day’s delay in getting back to a client may not have been an issue a few years ago, but in a tough market like real estate, a seamless CX and ease of engagement with an estate agent is critical.

Advances in technology have made it possible for potential home buyers to look for homes online, on a variety of websites, compare prices and features and even take virtual tours. Because these initial automated steps are now so accessible, customers have higher standards and more demanding expectations for the entire buying or selling process. However, word of mouth referrals and a good reputation are still an integral part of the estate agent sales process, especially for local, independent businesses, so making sure that they are excelling in all areas of customer service is still paramount.

Initial Property Searches Start Online

Millennials now make up 66% of the market for first-time homebuyers, and 99% of those looking for homes initially use the Internet to research properties.

Estate agents need to be able to provide the information in the way that millennials want to consume. Social media such as Facebook and even WhatsApp have become popular ways of sharing property details and finding buyers. It’s critical that estate agents have the ability to integrate social media tools and apps into the buying and selling process if they want to successfully acquire new customers. If new marketing channels are viewed as opportunities rather than threats, market reach can be increased by leveraging digital marketing and using analytics to understand the buyers’ needs.

As well as reaching potential new customers via the Internet, estate agents can maximise their online presence throughout the entire sales process, for example, setting up viewings and making appointments, providing further information on properties and keeping clients updated on property availability. Online services can also enhance the customer experience in the rental market by registering any problems with landlords and providing updates on the status of maintenance and repair issues.

What About Online Entrants?

The market share of online agents at the end of 2018 stabilised at just 7.2% of all exchanges (Source: The TwentyCi National Property & Homemover Report Q4 2018 ). When it was launched, Purplebricks was a front runner of this business model, only operating online and charging a fixed-fee, paid upfront, whether a property sold or not. While there’s clearly a small market for online-only estate agencies, the business model has not yet taken off in a big way. The vast majority of buyers and sellers still end up turning to estate agents for a bespoke, personal service, where they can benefit from human interaction, expertise and advice. For today’s consumers, it’s all about having the choice of how they communicate, be it online or in person, rather than being forced to communicate in only one way.

The Importance Of A Centralised Contact Centre

Property organisations are now looking to centralise their contact centre technology so that the branch staff can concentrate their resources on improving service levels, with walk-in enquiries and viewings. The main advantage of a fully interactive contact centre platform is that it allows customers to oversee every aspect of their transaction as it happens. They can access this service at any time of the day or night, at the touch of a button, without being restricted to the traditional estate agent’s opening hours. The UK’s property consumers are looking for choice, convenience and flexibility in how they search the market.

Bringing It All Together: The Omnichannel Experience

The optimal CX strategy must be real-time, customisable, omnichannel and multi-platform. Understanding how consumers behave and react to information enables estate agents to predict over time which communications channels deliver the best customer experience.

48% of real estate firms surveyed cited keeping up with technology as one of the biggest challenges facing their firm in the next two years (Source: 2017 Profile of Real Estate Firms, National Association of Realtors).

A superior CX strategy is all about creating a powerful partnership of property experts who are focused on serving the immediate needs of the customer and improving the home buying, selling and rental process with omnichannel technology.

An omnichannel solution will enable customers to self-serve, across websites, mobile apps and chatbots. By understanding the customers’ requirements, estate agents can predict their questions, issues and challenges and therefore build systems that allow customers to obtain the information they require quickly and efficiently.

It is also vital for estate agents to have access to all of their customer interactions, whether via walk-in enquiries, online or on the phone. They need to be able to easily transition from a web enquiry to a personal call or face-to-face meeting, with full access to the customer’s history, via integrated CX technology such as the CRM system, Salesforce.

The Customer Experience Remains At The Core Of Real Estate

There is a dramatic shift towards improving the customer experience in the property sector. It is an industry built on nurturing customer relationships, so providing a great customer experience is imperative to delivering customer satisfaction, maintaining retention levels, managing your reputation and growing your real estate business.

Omnichannel communications and innovations in technology can undoubtedly create a positive experience for sellers and buyers alike, helping you stay ahead of the competition.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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