SINGAPORE, 12 AUGUST 2008 -- As organisations deal with increasing challenges and uncertainty, raising communication efficiency has become more crucial than ever. While the concept of unified communications (UC) has been around for some time, it continues to present enterprises with new opportunities for productivity improvement.
According to Manoj Menon (picture below), partner and Asia-Pacific managing director for Frost and Sullivan (Frost), UC is the integration of various tools and applications used within an enterprise and with external partners for business communications.
UC on the rise
Speaking at Frost and Sullivans Unified Communications Summit, Menon puts UC on the same level of importance as other major issues like rising oil prices and the US economic slowdown.
UC is expected to become the norm among enterprises 10 years from now, he said. IP telephony has already become standard deployment in most markets today.
Menon added that increasing business collaborations and changing user communication preferences have driven demand for UC solutions. Consequently, competition among vendors has heated up, with giants like Microsoft seeking a piece of the UC market.
Creating business value
UC solutions provide enterprises the opportunity to reduce total cost of ownership and raise productivity, according to Menon. For example, McDonalds US operations use a centrally hosted IP telephony solution to cut manpower needed to handle customer orders.
However, he noted several deployment challenges including communication security and reliability, as enterprises are still in the early stages of adopting such solutions.
Interoperability is another issue. Because no single vendor can currently provide a complete end-to-end UC solution, enterprises need to leverage on offerings by multiple vendors, Menon said.
He added that UC applications are adopted in phases, with strong growth in demand for conferencing and mobility applications. UC is also driving IP telephony upgrades.
When enterprises consider a particular UC vendor, they should also consider other players in the vendor ecosystem to ensure successful deployment, Menon said.
Redefining customer service
Customers are now empowered with more information thanks to the internet, and can voice opinions about products and services on public forums. Consequently, they expect companies to deliver a better customer experience.
Customers want knowledgeable contact centre agents and flexible self-service systems, said Steven Tan (picture), regional marketing director, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, Aspect Software (Singapore). They also expect a choice of communication channels with the company and to have enquiries resolved on first-time contact.
He noted that contact centres can redefine customer service by leveraging on UC. In future, customers wont be limited to just getting help from the agent who answered the phone.
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