Tag - Unified Communications

3 Easy Ways You Can Build High-Performance Customer Moments

We all know Darwin’s Theory of Evolution; species must adapt to their environment in order to survive. The same is true in business, and the pandemic has been a hard lesson for many companies as they battle to stay afloat. The “fittest” have embraced (and even accelerated) digital transformation, finding new and meaningful ways to engage customers remotely.

This new normal shows no signs of waning. Even when social distancing restrictions relax, customers have grown accustomed to digital interactions. And for good reason: they’re faster and more convenient. But people still want to feel connected, perhaps even more so than before.

So how can companies strengthen their tie with customers and create a personal experience in a predominantly digital world? Unified communications technology makes it possible. Here are three specific ways to leverage digital communications tools to solidify customer relationships—and your survival.

1. Know Your Customer

We’re all in need of a little extra TLC these days, and companies that can find a way to show they care are rising to the top. What better way to do that than to demonstrate how well you know your customers? CRM integration with your communications system gives staff real-time access to information that can be used to create a memorable experience.

As soon as a customer contacts your business, agents can see detailed customer data, ranging from past order history and previous communications. Agents can immediately jump into action, providing updates on recent orders and answering questions the customer may have before they even ask them.

Maybe there’s a note on the account about an issue the customer recently had. How special will they feel if you ask them if it’s been fully resolved to their satisfaction? Or perhaps a promotion is running on a product or service a customer has shown interest in based on past order history. You can make sure they don’t miss out on savings. Small touches like these add up quickly when it comes to making an impact and building customer loyalty. Many companies have this type of data available, but agents need easy access to it precisely at the moment the customer interaction begins.

2. Make It Omnichannel

Customers have been interacting with businesses across multiple digital channels for years now, but the pandemic has forced even the most tech-resistant customers to become more digitally savvy. More than 80 percent of consumers are more likely to use digital wallets or cards in the future, and the use of chat and social media has seen a threefold increase.

Today, customers expect to be able to communicate with businesses via multiple social media channels, web chat, SMS messages, email and messaging apps. But it’s not enough to offer multiple means of communications. They all need to play nice together, allowing customers to seamlessly move from one channel to another. The digital customer simply expects to be able to start a conversation with a chatbot and move to a live agent via chat or phone (depending on their preference) without having to repeat any of the information they already shared.

Smart bots powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) make this possible by routing customers to an agent with the right level of expertise and providing them with a full history of the interaction. AI bots can also monitor communications between agents and customers (even if the conversation moves between channels) and provide guidance and training for the agent in real time.

Companies that move beyond multichannel and truly embrace omnichannel will earn the attention (and repeat business) of digital consumers.

3. Personalize It

Customers may be looking for ways to avoid physical interaction with your staff, but they’re craving personalization more than ever. They want to know you understand their needs and desires, that you value their time and business and that you truly care about giving them what they need. When agents have access to a full customer history, they can personalize the interaction and make customers feel appreciated and valued.

AI technology takes personalization to a new level, with virtual agents monitoring conversations and providing human agents with relevant information to resolve issues and answer questions more quickly. Integration with other internal systems such as supply chain and logistics platforms empower agents to answer just about any question a customer may have.

Imagine how pleased a customer would be if they were calling about a delayed shipment and an agent provides detailed status information as soon as they’re connected. When customers receive individualized attention and get answers to all of their questions, they get a sense of control in a time of constant change and uncertainty.

Powerful unified communications technology arms your business with the right tools to outperform the competition and adapt to changing customer expectations. How will you evolve?

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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An Honest Look at Hitting the Mark With Today’s Inside-Out Communications

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships,” wrote basketball star Michael Jordan in his 1994 book, I Can’t Accept Not Trying: Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence.

The same sentiment can be applied to customer relationships. Businesses, like sports teams, rely on effective internal communications and collaboration to win. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging for organizational teams to work together.

Two major trends of the last year have impacted the employee experience and, by extension, the customer experience. As many employees started working from home, consumers greatly increased their online shopping. It put businesses in a challenging position: just as newly remote employees were adjusting to new communication and collaboration methods, the expectations from customers multiplied and intensified.

We know both the employee experience and the customer experience are inextricably intertwined. The raised stakes of the pandemic taught us that the state of internal collaboration also directly affects customers. Let’s explore this in more detail from the customer, employee and team standpoints.

The Customer Perspective

While customer usage of online tools was growing before the pandemic, the events of the past year accelerated that behavior. In a survey of over 4,000 consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany, over 40 percent said their use of online customer service increased in 2020. These respondents also predict they’ll use digital customer service options like chatbots, virtual agents and self-service going forward. This signals an important shift in consumer behavior away from mostly phone and email.

The good news is that 60% of the survey respondents saw improvements in customer experience since the pandemic. Over half (55%) said they experienced friendly, helpful, knowledgeable customer representatives; responsiveness and fast service (45%); and communication that informs every step of the way (35%).

Further, thanks to the stress and isolation of the pandemic, customers have reprioritized what’s important to them in their interaction with businesses. Today, they place a higher value on trust, connection, understanding and empathy, signaling a change in expectations for the type of experience they want to receive.

The Employee Perspective

Interestingly, employees need many of the same things. The pandemic forced a seismic shift in how and where many white-collar employees get their job done. What’s become clear is that remote work comes with a unique set of challenges.

“Separation between family and work has become this balancing act,” says Patty McCord, a consultant and the former Chief Talent Officer for Netflix, in her TED Talk, 4 Lessons the Pandemic Taught Us About Work Life and Balance. “We used to say, “Well, this is my work home, and this is my family home, and those are two completely different things.” For many of us, it’s exactly the same thing.” McCord notes this new dynamic has created “a whole different level of complexity and coordination”.

To better support employees, organizations need business processes and technology that make communications and collaboration easier. Separating work life from home life is undeniably harder in a remote environment, but clear guidance on how to handle common problems, like interruptions by family members, can set the right tone in customer interactions.

Business guidelines can help solve momentary distractions, such as when a customer service call is interrupted by a child asking for a snack. In a customer-centric organization, the representative is empowered to make their own decision about how much to reveal to the customer. But now that customers view empathy and understanding as a necessary part of the customer experience, an agent’s choice to be transparent could be a game-changer in the relationship. Empowered, they can turn a potential problem into a unique opportunity to connect on a human level.

However, some situations can’t be smoothed over easily with a simple nod to the challenges of work from home. What happens to customer experience when the agent suddenly has to leave her home office to answer the demands of a sick family member? That’s when the right technology plays a role―such as call center software that automatically rolls over calls to other members of the team who can take over and ensure the customer gets the experience they expect. Collaboration in this case is both frictionless and invisible to the customer.

Supercharge With Technology

To achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction, organizations first need to focus their entire culture on the customer experience. That means even staff working in the middle or back-end of the company need to be tuned into the customer. Organizations that excel at customer experience are able to identify every interaction point their customers have with the business. Information such as customer feedback, analytics, purchase behavior flow from the front line to internal functions like marketing, distribution and production.

Technology that supports inter-team and company-wide communications and collaboration makes this possible. For instance, consider the customer service representative helping a customer troubleshoot a problem. Unified communications software streamlines collaboration by making subject matter experts easily accessible. No matter what channel the agent is using to connect with the customer, they can hold a side conversation with their colleague in product marketing at the same time without ever leaving the call center software. This seamless interaction allows the agent to resolve the problem faster and exceed the client’s expectations.

Another way to support agents is to balance workloads and allow for shift flexibility. This has become particularly important during the pandemic. Employees are often trying to balance work and home responsibilities. Using cloud-based reporting tools and analytics, companies can identify peak times and schedule staff accordingly.

The Team Perspective

The fluidity of today’s work-life balance means internal communications has never been more vital. If companies want to deliver a customer experience that rises above expectations, they need tools and technology that foster teamwork and collaboration and streamline communications.

When the Liverpool Football Club needed this kind of responsiveness, they turned to Mitel. For the team, collaboration among employees was essential for delivering exceptional experiences for hundreds of millions of fans around the world.

“In the speed of what football is today, all of the things that need to be seamless and frictionless need to come together and communication 24/7 becomes key,” said Peter Moore, Liverpool FC’s former chief executive officer. “Tools that allow collaboration, instant communication, understanding of what your colleagues are doing at any given time are critical.”

For example, when a fan calls or emails the club, staff has fan data at their fingertips so they can almost preempt what the issue is, said Moore. These advanced contact center capabilities provide omnichannel support and personalized experience to engage fans better.

Further, Mitel’s mobile communications and remote working capabilities allow club staff to connect faster with each other to resolve problems and ensure a better fan experience. That’s important for agents; it enables them to do their jobs with greater confidence. The organization benefits as well, because employees are more satisfied and experience less stress.

“With Mitel’s expertise, we will have the ability to introduce new channels and intelligent fan self-service capabilities. Ultimately, the partnership with Mitel will enable us to simplify fan journeys and create seamless interactions which will result in a better fan experience,” said Billy Hogan, who recently took over as Liverpool FC’s managing director and CEO.

Internal communications foster teamwork and have the potential to elevate your business performance. However, it only becomes a game-changer when the right business processes and technology are in place. With unified communications, your business will look―and operate―more like a championship team.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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3 Reasons Why the Cloud is Every Business’ Ultimate Safety Blanket

As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we can hope that we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel. That’s the good news. However, we also now realize that unexpected, unthinkable events will happen—and can happen again. This is where business continuity and agility must be top priorities moving forward.

We learned a valuable lesson in 2020. Forced to adopt new technologies quickly to continue operating, many businesses turned to the flexibility of cloud communications. For example, 2020 saw a sharp increase in the number of white-collar employees working from home, and videoconference calls replaced many in-person meetings and conferences. Restaurants and supermarkets relied heavily on apps like Instacart and Door Dash to reach and serve their customers. None of this could have happened without web-based software residing in the cloud.

Given what we’ve learned about how essential it is to have resilient communications, the value of cloud technology has become more apparent. As a trusted, reliable element of any business communications plan, here’s why the cloud can provide peace of mind:

1. Resiliency In The Face Of Disaster

COVID-19 has been a real-time exercise in crisis management. Companies that had “crises” in their business continuity plans and the right technology in place were able to pivot quickly to remote work with cloud-based communications tools. Many of the lessons learned from the pandemic will be useful for future business continuity plans, just as other disasters―both natural and man-made―informed the plans we’re implementing today.

For instance, during Hurricane Katrina, IT leaders in and around New Orleans learned the value of having a disaster recovery that included the cloud. As the storm pummeled the city and water rose, IT support staff were displaced. The lesson? The ability to transition smoothly to remote work was essential for keeping operations running, especially as offices of government agencies and businesses lost power or flooded. Today, many of these leaders rely on the cloud to provide immediate access from any location to critical systems.

2. Protection Against Cybersecurity Threats

Natural disasters aren’t the only disruption business continuity teams need to prepare for. Man-made threats like data breaches have made cybersecurity a mainstay of planning.

McKinsey estimates that by 2030, system downtime and cybersecurity breaches will cost companies worldwide approximately $650 billion. However, using the cloud to migrate applications could reduce that downtime by almost 57%.

Tessie Cleveland Community Services Corporation (TCCSC), a Los Angeles-based healthcare non-profit, factored these concerns into its communication needs. In addition to requiring a geo-independent and fully redundant solution, its new system had to protect highly confidential medical data.

“We needed a solution that delivered security, call quality, flexibility and disaster recovery,” said Simon Dayan, director of IT for TCCSC. By moving to the cloud, the organization was able to realize this for less money than its premise-based telephony cost. Now healthcare professionals easily collaborate from any location, using any kind of device. With a cloud-based solution, personnel are always reachable and advanced encryption meets HIPAA compliance requirements.

3. Innovation And Opportunity

The speed at which scientists around the world developed COVID-19 vaccines was breathtaking. Never in the history of modern pharmaceuticals has such a feat been accomplished. One of the first vaccines available was developed by Moderna, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology firm.

CEO Stéphane Bancel made a bold decision to use the public cloud as his company’s research and development platform. This enabled scientists to design research experiments, use automated laboratory capabilities and quickly translate data to manufacturing. To achieve this, Moderna uses a proprietary cloud-based application called Drug Design Studio. By using the cloud, the company can scale instantly. There’s no need to buy more servers to meet data storage demand. Applications are uploaded easily for all employees and partners to access.

Moderna’s example demonstrates how the cloud can support innovation and a competitive advantage. How could your organization benefit from this kind of computing power?

Hybrid Or Full Cloud?

If you’re considering moving to the cloud, remember you don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, experts advise against it. Step back and create a plan, even if you’re under duress. Identify what should stay on-premise and what should go to the cloud. Focus on what you’d need to operate if a major interruption or disaster occurred. Focus on the connectivity your employees need to do their jobs remotely. Also, focus on consistent and seamless end-to-end communications. Then work with a partner to build a hybrid or full cloud solution that meets the needs you identified.

By offering ease of access and reliability, the cloud is your security blanket in the face of disaster. It gives your company the agility it needs to respond to any disruption, be it a natural disaster, a global pandemic, a security breach or a failure of your network or hardware. Knowing your staff can access files, data, applications and their coworkers as if they were sitting in the office provides peace of mind, and ensures business continuity.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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5 Ways Software Assurance Helps Your Business Succeed

Just like your business, communications technologies are evolving all the time to enable even more value and integrate more tightly with business tools your employees utilize every day. Therefore, keeping your Mitel solutions current with Software Assurance (SWA) is vital to your organization.

Mitel Software Assurance provides access to upgrades, incremental enhancements, fixes, security patches, expert technical support and much more, helping to ensure that your communications investment delivers value from day one and for years to come.

This Guide was first published by Mitel.

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4 Ways Cloud Communications Helps You Accelerate Growth

It happened more quickly than experts could have ever predicted: the adoption of cloud computing and new technologies. The year 2020 taught us that, while migrating telephony to the cloud decreases costs and increases efficiencies, it also builds a foundation on which to grow revenue.

In Mitel’s latest EU Cloud Survey, European IT executives said gaining the agility to grow their company is the top benefit of moving to the cloud. This response has more than doubled, from 16% in 2018’s survey to 35% in 2019. Companies realize the cloud enables them to do more with less and extend their reach. Further, it makes it easier for them to adopt next-gen technologies that free resources for investment in other growth areas.

For sure, businesses have spent the past year ramping up their digital transformations. In a 2020 survey by Dell Technologies, 80% of respondents said they fast-tracked some of their digital transformations while 41% have sped up all or most of their programs. Their priorities, they said, are on strengthening remote working capabilities, reinventing digital customer service and employee experience and using data in new ways.

Meanwhile, a survey by McKinsey found that CEOs have made agility and growth their top priorities. The survey of CIOs said corporate leaders want the flexibility to respond to customer needs and get product to market faster (71%) as well as accelerate revenue (88%).

Whether you’re a digital leader, follower or laggard, the path is clear. The cloud can significantly strengthen your ability to compete.

Respond Faster

How much harder is it to develop new products to meet rapidly changing customer needs when all the parties involved work with different communications systems? With cloud-based communications, everyone can collaborate in a shared workspace. And no matter the device, the platform is consistent. Videoconferencing, email, SMS, file-sharing and telephony all happen from a virtual desktop. In that environment, product designers, vendors, suppliers, distribution and marketing can collaborate quickly to meet changing customer behaviors and capture sales.

Extend Your Reach

When the pandemic forced many businesses to close their physical offices, employees started to remote work full time. Companies adopted web-based technologies to connect workers and, as a result, extended their reach.

With the rapid jump to cloud communications, geography no longer figures so highly in business planning. Partners are global. Customers are global. Even small businesses can serve customers in new geographic locations. Unified communications allows businesses of all sizes to connect with partners and customers no matter where they’re located.

Do More With Less

Integrated cloud solutions―private, public or a hybrid―enable contact center agents to easily access key customer information. For example, consider the company’s CRM system. It doesn’t matter where a service representative is sitting, whether at home, at the office or in a country halfway around the world. With a fully integrated communications system, information from multiple channels and parts of the organization are available at the touch of a key.

Customers can reach agents via phone, chat, email or social media. And in a shared web-based workspace, employees can collaborate to resolve customer requests faster and more easily. All of this increases the quality of customer service and ensures the agility―and revenue―that executives seek.

By adopting cloud applications, many businesses reduce their operating costs. For example, with more remote work taking place, companies save significant money on office space, employee travel and in-person marketing, like sales conferences. With the shift to the cloud, companies spend less on software and hardware, only paying for what they actually use.

This frees funds to shift to other opportunities, such as hiring the best talent. Because of the efficiency and reach of cloud communications, businesses can more easily find talent globally. Collaboration tools make working across geographic and time boundaries more simple. And because any worker―not just full-time employees―can access the organization’s communications via the web, employers can mine talent across the employment continuum, from full-time staff to contractors.

Perhaps more intangible, but equally powerful, is the time and effort saved. With this new source of energy, your workforce can shift their attention to innovation, finding new business opportunities, solving problems and building the skills you’ll need going forward.

Adopt Next-Gen Technologies

Cloud communications also levels the playing field among companies of different sizes. Previously, only large firms could afford sophisticated software. But by moving to the cloud, small businesses can access next-gen technology without investing huge amounts of money. They can easily download new applications, working with their cloud partner to develop customized and cost-effective solutions.

For example, speech analytics. This artificial intelligence tool interprets language, looking for key words and routing messages to the right people. Even issues like privacy, security and compliance are easier to manage. Cloud-native applications kept up to date by the vendor save time and effort for businesses.

While the pandemic has disrupted our world, it has also brought important benefits to the forefront. The accelerated adoption of cloud communications has put growth and revenue opportunities within reach of all businesses.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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3 Reasons Why You Should Get (and Stay) Current

Let’s face it, the days of running a business with outdated communication tools are over. The COVID-19 pandemic has made that very clear. Businesses that continued to keep pace with ever-changing communications technologies before the pandemic were best equipped to make a smooth transition to a remote working reality. Businesses that had not kept pace with technology were caught scrambling. 

Today, many businesses are taking stock of their communications infrastructure to determine what they will need to stay competitive during and after the pandemic. Although a migration to cloud-based options should be the eventual goal, getting there may not require an immediate and abrupt shift. Staying agile and competitive on the road to the cloud can be achieved by ensuring existing technology is current.

You Can’t Get Ahead If You’re Technically Behind

Way back when, you only had to worry about one communication tool. A phone system and access to dial tone was all you needed to support most business operations. That basic hardware could stay in place for years without much upkeep. 

Now, your employees need more than a handset to stay connected with colleagues, partners and customers. Smartphones, email, text, chat, screen-sharing, unified communication and more enable a mobile, agile and responsive workforce. The IP-based systems and platforms you rely on to deliver these tools provide a variety of communication and collaboration options. But unlike the basic handsets of yesteryear, the technologies behind today’s systems continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Every minor software update or major upgrade refines existing capabilities or adds new features designed to streamline work processes and improve efficiency. 

Unfortunately, many businesses have not kept up with the pace of change. They have delayed updates and upgrades and continue to operate with outdated systems. If you are one of those businesses, you are not taking full advantage of the technology you already have and are not giving your employees the advanced tools they need to maximize productivity. This puts your employees at a disadvantage compared to competitors who are leveraging every new iteration of their communications systems to ensure that vital link between employees, partners and customers is optimized at every touch point.

Outdated Systems Are Vulnerable

Beyond efficiency and productivity, staying current with updates and upgrades to your existing communication system is the key to protecting your business from security threats. 

Because of the way business is conducted today with dispersed and remote employees, even daily office emails and phone calls can contain confidential information that matters to your customers. The tight integration of voice, data, and image capabilities in IP-based communications systems that enable a distributed workforce make those systems an ideal target for cybercriminals looking for a backdoor into your business data. Most IT professionals agree that outdated software on these systems is an open invitation. So, the longer the software has been neglected, the more likely it is that someone can find a way to exploit its vulnerabilities. 

Given that your communication system is the vital enabler of your business, you can’t afford to take the risk. Avoid the financial cost and disruption of a security breach by keeping your system current with all the latest security features. System software updates and upgrades often address security flaws, eliminate minor glitches or close security holes that could be exploited by hackers. They provide that extra layer of protection your business needs from the damage and destruction caused by a cyberattack. Without that extra layer of protection, you’re opening the door to a potential breach and the resulting loss of consumer confidence, which means that existing customers and potential customers won’t be likely to trust your business in the future.

A Move To The Cloud Should Be At Your Own Pace

Of course, as technology evolves, your communications strategy should too. While the objective for all organizations should be an eventual migration to the cloud, that move should be made when it makes the most business sense. By staying current with your existing system, you can be more strategic with your move and make it at your own pace.

When you start thinking about your move to cloud-based communications services, consider whether you have maximized the potential of your current system. Cloud systems can be configured to provide telephony, mobility, team and video collaboration, contact center capabilities and communication integration — all for a monthly fee. Many on-premises systems, like Mitel MiVoice Business, can be upgraded with all these features. Upgrading optimizes your current investment and extends the life of your system while you structure your move to the cloud to fit your business and market strategies.

To capitalize on this potential, make sure you’re making the incremental choices today that keep your system as flexible as possible, ready to add functionality as needed and capture opportunities when they arise. This means staying current with all the latest updates and upgrades and activating features that extend the life of your system, like video, collaboration and customer experience capabilities. It also means thinking strategically with your technology partner about how emerging technologies and creative uses of integrations can revolutionize the workflows in your organization to improve daily operations.

Staying Current Makes Good Business Sense

Ultimately, the risks associated with not making needed updates to systems are too great to ignore and the benefits are well worth the effort. But many businesses today are operating with communication systems that are at least one full software version behind current. As a result, their systems may lack the built-in functionality that, if current, could enhance efficiency and increase productivity. These systems are also missing critical security updates that could reduce the risk of cyberattacks.

As you look to define the communications tools you will need to stay competitive during and after the pandemic, it’s important to remember that, sometimes, staying competitive can be as simple as updating what you already have. And if what you already have is MiVoice Business, you have a solid foundation to build on, as long as you stay current. 

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Collaboration without Distractions: Utopia or just a Smart Tool Choice Away

A productive and successful workplace naturally entails a certain level of collaboration. Rare are the successful one-person enterprises that require little to no collaborative effort.

And while the modern workplace—connected, tech-oriented, or even remote—has developed hundreds of ways to collaborate, it has also inadvertently spawned an equal number of distractions.

It is these most common, often tech-enabled, workplace distractions we shall be exploring today, while also offering a smart tool choice that helps reduce (if not eliminate) distractions, thus giving a healthy boost to all the elements of collaborative success: creativity, productivity, innovation and growth.

Distracting Smartphones, Preventative Apps

Probably the worst offender in the distraction realm, our smartphones have not only become our window into the world, but they have also given all of us a mild case of ADD.

And while it is perfectly understandable that you want your phone to alert you to new emails, messages, calls and texts, you don’t want it to do so all the time.

Start by simply muting all notifications while you are working—even the work-related ones.

If you are sitting in front of a screen anyway, you’ll see them. Then, use an app that will lock other apps (like Offtime or a similar solution), preventing you from entering the world of social media while your phone is in your hand.

It will definitely take some time to get used to it. You’ll notice yourself reaching for the phone even when you don’t need it—but this habit can be kicked like all others, it just takes a bit of patience.

Mindomo Diagram 1

Source

An Avalanche Of Emails, A Simple Pause

Over 306 billion emails were sent and received per day in 2020—no wonder they are so distracting.

Even though emails are one of the top collaborative tools we rely on daily, their constant zooming in and out is quite equal to the disruptiveness of the Wizarding World’s paper airplanes.

A simple solution, however, is available—use an add-on for your email client that will pause emails for a specific period of time. That way you will be able to focus, even if you keep Alt-Tab-ing back to your inbox every once in a while.

Mindomo Diagram 2

Source

Curious how other companies are using communications technology to thrive? Find out in our special feature, The Future Now of Work, including advice from top experts.

Malcontent Meetings And The Mayhem Of Memos

A collaborative staple, the meeting (in-person or over video), is oddly also one of the main sources of workplace distractions.

Working from home has ushered in a new workplace malady, videoconferencing fatigue, which impacts productivity and focus.

The first solution to this problem does not require a tool per se—just the cutting of unnecessary and over-long meetings.

However, a tool that can help you is a simple email, project management or even voice recording tool.

Instead of having everyone taking notes and debating points, send out an agenda before each meeting, listing the main discussion points. Select one person whose input in the conversation is not needed to take notes, which you will then send out to everyone who’s attended.

This will not only make the meetings more productive and focused, it will also eliminate the post-meeting distraction as each individual goes over their own notes.

Planning Roadblocks And The Road To A Plan

When more than one person is involved in the creation of a plan, opportunities for distraction and derailment abound.

Then there is also the issue of following through with the plan, especially if it has not been mapped out correctly.

The simple tool that can help you overcome these hurdles is the mind map, which will help you break your project down into smaller tasks, show you how each task relates to all the others, and help you take your ideas from the brainstorming stage to the execution stage.

It provides both a bigger picture overview of a plan, at the same time allowing you to focus on the tiniest particles with laser precision.

Mindomo Diagram 3

Source

People As The Ultimate Distraction

While our global addiction to smartphones reflects our tech-dependency, the people we work with can be equally as distracting, if not more so.

As most workplaces use some sort of chat app to communicate (working from home has boosted their use to 81% of total businesses, up from 67% in 2019), employees lean into a perfectly natural urge and just chat away.

And while the human connection remains an integral part of the collaboration, sometimes the chat app is your worst enemy. It is certainly a communication method that has its uses, but nevertheless, it can be distracting.

The simple solution is integrated into each app—in the form of a “do not disturb” status. On the other hand, if that option alone is not enough for you, you can hark back to one of the apps we’ve already mentioned that will limit your access to the chat app and prevent you from engaging in collaboration while you need to focus on individual work.

To Sum It All Up

The road to distraction-free collaboration is clear. It involves a lot of personal restraint and the reliance on the same technology that has caused a lot of the collaboration (and distraction) in the first place.

Be smart about your tool choices, and opt for ones that allow for disengagement, as well as engagement. Exercise your own free will and choose to distance yourself from the chatter whenever you need to slide into deep and meaningful work.

While the strings that attach you to the digital world will pull on your thoughts tightly, the less attention you pay them, the less taut they will become.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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MiVoice Business Software Upgrade Matrix

Collaboration technologies and omni-channel communications will be intrinsic to more and more business processes. After all, successful businesses rely on the seamless sharing of diverse thinking and experience, even if teams are separated by geographical distance. Sales teams, customer service agents and other departments, require integrated systems that not only keep them in contact with their teams, but improve the customer experience at a time in which communication is more important than ever.

Every year, updated software for your system is released offering access to new capabilities and protection from security risks. To help you understand how much you’re missing out on, your system’s manufacturer, Mitel, has provided this Migration Matrix to demonstrate exactly which capabilities you could have access to immediately after a simple software update. Download the guide, choose your current version of MiVoice Business Software and we’ll show you what you’re missing out on.

This Migration Matrix was first published by Mitel.

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5 Leadership Communication Tips for a Digitally Mediated Working World

This blog was originally posted on practical-cx.com.

My colleague, Lauren, hosted a virtual happy hour for her company’s customer experience operations team.

Instead of a faces-on-a-screen, sip-and-chat gathering, Lauren asked her team to create a fun riff on the long-running MTV television series “Cribs”. On “Cribs”, celebrities invite camera crews into their amazing homes and show audiences around, virtually.

So, Lauren’s team’s virtual happy hour looked a little more like this: coworkers had a laptop in one hand and a libation in the other. Everyone on the team took a sip of their drink, then a turn pointing their webcam around their home, treating teammates to a virtual tour.

“It was about having fun and creating bonding time” Lauren said.

New Realities For Digitally Mediated Leadership

We’ve learned some things about leadership in the changing business world.

One of those things is that the demands on leaders to perform within a digital, mobile working world have never been more complex. What used to be true about leadership and leading, when leaders could be co-present with employees, has changed.

That got me to thinking. With expectations changing so dramatically, and with business demands evolving just as quickly, what are the techniques leaders should have down pat right now when they cannot be physically co-present with employees every day?

Here are five techniques that rise to the surface.

1. Tell Stories

One of the biggest jobs a leader has is to promote a vision for business growth. Now, in a near-100 percent digitally mediated working environment, leaders have to kick that effort up a notch.

People connect with human anecdotes. So, explain your vision through stories, analogies, pop culture references, or relevant items in the news. You might even play a contact center recording, share a customer testimonial, or circulate a customer e-mail.

Your vision for change, teamwork, and company goals should be a central, continual part of your talk track as a leader. To get and keep your team’s attention in the current environment, you will need to mix it up. Stories have an impact.

People connect with human anecdotes. Explain your vision through stories, analogies, pop culture references, news items, or play a contact center recording.

2. Lock (Virtual) Arms With Change-Ready Employees

But leading right now is also about more than just talking. It’s also about engaging. Leaders can state a vision and tell stories, but it takes leaders and employees to get stuff done.

Some employees may be struggling with change right now. But others are ready, and they will show you they are eager to move ahead. Embrace this opportunity.

What do those employees sound and look like? New scholarly work says change-ready employees engage optimistically, embrace collectivity, and demonstrate that they are willing to navigate uncertainty.

But there’s a catch! Research shows these employee qualities aren’t always obvious. Leaders must look for them. Then, open a dialogue. Ask those employees to step into relevant, new challenges.

3. Listen Authentically

One common pitfall I see leaders fall into is believing they just know what employees and customers want without asking. If you think you know, but you haven’t asked, it’s time to reframe your assumptions. Ask and listen, authentically.

“Be authentic!” may feel like a tired phrase right now. But “being authentic” is about more than being cool with it when employees show up to virtual team meetings in their workout gear. It is also in how you pick up on the signals that employees and customers send. All. The. Time.

Here’s why it’s such a big deal. Listening with authenticity helps you to stay in tune with how your team’s culture and your customers’ experiences are shifting in comparison to your vision. Being authentic helps you to avoid the risks of getting the story you want to hear versus the facts you need to hear.

Teams that trust one another ring the cash register. Collaborative tools can support trust-building in a virtual team environment.

4. Commit To Trust

Teams that trust one other are the ones that ring the cash register. Study after study proves it.

However, demonstrating psychological safety can be a challenge when team members aren’t physically together every day. Collaborative tools can support trust-building in a virtual environment.

Additional tactics for virtual meetings: ask icebreaker questions or do a fun trivia game. One team I know encouraged impromptu GIF games in the team’s collaborative chat. On top of that, provide frequent feedback so that everyone stays on the same page with expectations.

Building trust means being authentic, frequent, predictable, responsive, and clear in your communication. It’s about more than just what you say. It’s also about when, where, and how you say it.

5. Check Your Gut Instincts Against Data

Gut instincts are great. But knowing how to get and use usable data in your leadership work is crucial. Changing times mean leaders need to challenge the quality and quantity of their data sources.

You can collect feedback through pulse surveys, customer, and employee interviews. Tools like Mitel’s contact center agent dashboard can clue you in on agent workloads, help to predict agent burnout, and avoid employee attrition.

Being authentic helps you to avoid the story you want to hear and get the facts you need to hear.

Celebrate Victories, Reward People When Things Are Going Right

So much has changed with leadership. But some things haven’t changed. Recognizing the good work of teams and employees, for example, will never go out of style. Shout-outs, monetary rewards, and surprise care packages delivered to someone’s home sends a message of appreciation.

Like Lauren and her team’s virtual “Cribs” happy hour session, leaders need to raise a glass and toast to their teams when things are going right.

Because the world has done more than just shift. It has changed, irrevocably. Many of us are learning as we go. But there are some important leadership to-dos right now that hold firm as change unfolds in our new normal.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Building a Collaboration Strategy for the Evolving Workplace

This blog was originally posted on lauriemccabe.com.

There’s no question that COVID-19 has forever changed the way small and medium businesses (SMBs) think about the “workplace”, shifting the concept from the physical world to a virtual one.

Recently, Mona Abou-Sayed, Mitel’s VP of Collaboration and Applications, and I discussed this in a LinkedIn Live session, Building Culture and Collaboration for the Next Normal, hosted by Brent Leary. We talked about the implications for businesses as they move from early, reactive responses to remote working, and consider the longer-lasting impacts on the workplace.

In this post, I recap some of the key take-aways and make additional perspectives.

Work From Home Is Here To Stay

Providing employees with the option to work from home isn’t new. The trend had already been rising prior to COVID-19: According to Flexjobs, WFM jobs had risen 44% over the last 5 years before COVID-19 struck.

In addition, SMB Group’s 2019 SMB 360: Connecting the Dots Between Business and Technology survey indicated that about three-quarters of SMBs had options for employees to work from home prior to COVID-19. However, in the majority of these companies, only a small percentage of workers—typically 10% or less—were working from home on a regular basis.

Collab Strategy Fig 1

COVID-19 has turned these numbers upside down. Confronted with stay-at-home mandates, SMBs with existing WFM programs dramatically expanded them, and over half of SMBs that lacked work-from-home options prior to the pandemic started putting them in place.

Seemingly overnight, millions of people that had never worked from home began doing so—providing people with an “aha moment”: Many jobs could be done just as productively and effectively at home as in the office.

As the threat of the virus subsides, and mandates are lifted, some employees will go back to the office full time. But others will continue to work at home full time, and another group will divide their time between the office and home, resulting in a hybrid workplace. The workplace is also likely to be more fluid, accommodating changing business and employee considerations.

Videoconferencing Becomes The Poster Child For Work From Home

Videoconferencing took off just as quickly as WFM. Companies that lacked or never used the video element of web conferencing started to do so. People who used to turn their cameras off for online meetings started turning them on.

Of course, there were also issues—ranging from Zoom bombing security breaches to time wasted due to slow connections to technical difficulties.

But people got accustomed to the glitches and to juggling video meetings with dogs, kids, spouses, messy offices, and bad hair days. Video quickly humanized business meetings that had in the past been stodgy affairs. Instead of reading emails behind a darkened screen, more people were actually paying attention during videoconferencing sessions.

Collaboration Requires More Than Videoconferencing

But videoconferencing is not the only online tool that has helped SMBs to sustain their businesses.

Collab Strategy Fig 2

SMB Group’s Impact of COVID-19 Study on SMBs reveals that across the board, a majority of SMBs rate cloud-based applications as being extremely valuable in helping them to weather the COVID-19 crisis. Cloud-based business solutions topped the list, followed by videoconferencing. But for most SMBs all of these solutions—remote IT and access, real-time collaboration, file sharing, backup, security, and identity management— have proved their worth in supporting WFM and keeping businesses up and operational.

This isn’t surprising. Whether in the physical world or the virtual one, meetings are just one component of how work actually gets done. From phone systems to business solutions, most companies use multiple solutions to collaborate and get their work done. And businesses need to secure these solutions to protect customer, financial, and other sensitive data that we share within our companies.

Supporting A Hybrid, Flexible Workplace For The Long Term

Many SMBs were forced to play defense when the pandemic hit. They turned to whatever they could quickly fill in the gaps for a new or greatly expanded remote workforce—often ending up with a hodge-podge of different, point solutions.

But as we transition from this initial, reactive phase, more SMBs are realizing that jumping from one application or system to another adds friction, frustration, and security risks into the collaboration process. As a result, many are starting to think about how they can develop a cohesive collaboration and communications strategy that can adapt to change today and tomorrow.

Integrating a mix of old phone systems, web and videoconferencing, SMS, file sharing and other tools after the fact often costs more—in terms of both time and money—than it does to move to a unified solution in which the applications are designed to work together in the first place.

Unified, cloud-based collaboration solutions pull all the things you need to do every day, such as phone calls, web and video meetings, messaging, notifications, and file sharing, into one place. They’re built from the ground up to work together. For instance, say you’re on a chat and realize that it would be easier to have the conversation via a video meeting. Ideally, you’d just want to be able to click a button and move the conversation to a video call.

Many offer integrations with key business applications, such as email, CRM, human resources, and other solutions to help streamline business workflows. For example, Mitel’s public cloud communications solution, MiCloud Connect, has native integrations with G Suite, Salesforce, and Microsoft Office. Their private cloud offering, MiCloud Flex, has additional integrations with Salesforce, SugarCRM, and Microsoft Dynamics. They’ve put together a slew of resources for SMBs to support the hybrid and remote worker thrive.

Because they’re designed to support millions of users, unified collaboration solutions also offer the enterprise-grade security and reliability safeguards that businesses need.

Perspective

While no one has a crystal ball, it’s highly likely that many of the changes we’ve seen unfold during the pandemic will continue to reshape our views of work and the workplace even after the pandemic subsides.

As your business transitions from reacting to COVID-19 to longer-term planning, now is the time to evaluate your current collaboration strategy. Taking a more holistic approach can help you bring people, processes together, improve how work gets done, and put your business on track for sustainability and growth as the way we work evolves.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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