As my recent posts have illustrated, there is more to the “unified” part of UC than just communications. This isn’t to diminish UC’s ability to make the process of communicating more effective, which in turn leads to improved productivity. Many employees actually find all these options overwhelming, but also want to minimize wasted time and energy from leaving VM, getting cc’d on too many emails, or wondering if our co-workers are joining the conference bridge. UC goes a long way to mitigating these problems, and that form of unification is core to the value proposition. By unifying communications, employees can simply do their jobs better.
In my last post, I talked about another aspect of unification that UC enables – your employees. These are largely soft benefits that should come naturally as an extension of UC’s productivity gains, but I also cited specific examples of proactive initiatives that IT could take for even more striking results. With that perspective in mind, I’d like to take things a step further.
The vast majority of my posts on this portal focus on the value of UC for three stakeholder groups – employees, IT and management. These are all internal to the business, and clearly, this is where the rationale for UC is most important. When making decisions about deploying UC, you may not be considering anything else, but I would ask, why stop there?
Stepping back, addressing your internal communications needs is essential, but the performance of many employees rests more with external communications, such as with customers, partners and suppliers. Nothing matters more to a business than customers, and your ability to unify customers can be a strong driver for deploying UC. The impact on customers may not be top-of-mind for IT when evaluating UC solutions, but if positioned properly, this type of unification should resonate positively with management. There are many ways to do this, and here are two examples to consider.
Consistent end user experience. Think about this from the customer’s perspective. No matter who the customer contacts in your company, with UC, they use a common set of tools and a consistent interface. The customer-facing look and feel is the same regardless of geography or which office they are contacting. This unified experience gives customers a comfort level that everyone in your company is on the same page and equally accessible via all the modes supported by UC. Not only does that make your company easier to do business with, but it unifies the customer in that everyone from their end will have the same experience communicating with your company. Compare this to a non-standardized environment where offices are using different phone systems, dial plans, email systems, Web platforms, etc. Even a basic task like transferring a call from one location to another may not be possible, resulting in anything but a unified experience.
Unifying across your customers. This example is horizontal in the sense that UC can be used to bring customers together, especially those with common interests and needs. Think in terms of geography, vertical markets, size of company, etc. Your business can create new forms of value by using UC to make it easy for customers to share learning with each other. This could take the form of a customer-only portal where you provide a secure environment for them to communicate among themselves, or even along with your employees. Another approach would be outreach of your own to a common set of customers, to do things like new product demos, provide educational content, solicit feedback on ideas for new products, etc. The main idea here is to leverage the real time elements of UC to actively engage and interact with customers as a group. This won’t appeal to everyone, but with a bit of planning, you should easily be able to find a few to test these ideas out with.
If you haven’t thought of UC in this context before, I hope you can now see the possibilities. There is no singular way to define UC or sell UC, so there’s really no reason why unifying customers cannot be part of the value proposition. Do you think this could work in your company?