With organisations heavily focused on driving efficiency and cost-effectiveness, the need for more seamless and integrated communications within business is more obvious than ever.

This is according to Henry McCracken, regional sales director, Africa at Aspect Software who maintains that the latest unified communications (UC) applications recognise these needs by combining presence and availability with voice, video, e-mail and instant messaging technologies to deliver business value.
“UC applications not only make it easier to access the right people on any device, at the right time but also enable people to communicate via the most optimal path with employees, customers and suppliers and ultimately streamline business processes,” he explains.
“Given the significant impact UC can potentially have, it’s no surprise that many businesses are pressing forward with their UC strategies. However, to fully exploit the power of UC, it is important to view it not as a single project, but as a journey that requires careful business and technology planning that targets distinct benefits at different points along the way.”
According to McCracken, Aspect has identified four key steps that comprise the UC journey, each defined by progressively greater capabilities and benefits:
* Individual productivity – increasing productivity by enabling employees to save time in everyday activities through capabilities such as “click to call” and unified messaging.
* Workgroup productivity – extending productivity improvements to workgroups through collaboration and conferencing tools and generating significant cost savings through system consolidation, reduction in external communications costs, travel and even real estate.
* Communications enabled business processes – improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the enterprise by directly embedding unified communications capabilities into business processes that extend across
functional groups of the enterprise.
* Enterprise transformation – accelerating the identification of new products, services and channels by using unified communications and collaboration to engage an ecosystem of customers and partners.
With the customer contact centre being one of the key areas where UC can add significant business value, Aspect announced a partnership with Microsoft in March 2008 to integrate contact centre and corporate-wide UC strategies and technologies so that all employees could become an integral part of an enterprise-wide customer service operation where efficiency, service quality and sales potential was maximised. As part of the agreement between the two companies, Aspect has enhanced its Aspect Unified IP contact centre platform to interoperate with Microsoft’s platform for software-powered voice and UC, including interoperability with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007.
The company has also created six UC applications for the contact centre:
* Seamless Customer Service – which delivers the tools needed for comprehensive call response;
* Blended Interaction – which provides inbound, outbound, self-service and workforce optimisation capabilities;
* Streamlined Collections – which automates early stage collections and enables expert agent engagement for a more effective delinquent account targeting strategy;
* Optimised Collections – which utilises performance, workforce and campaign management to enhance contact and calling strategies;
* Productive Workforce – which delivers the tools and processes to help optimise resource utilisation and adopt a continuous improvement culture; and
* Productive Workforce for Aspect eWorkforce Management – which delivers the tools and processes to help Aspect eWorkforce Management users optimise resource utilisation and adopt a continuous improvement culture.
“These UC applications can be deployed on either an in-house technology platform or on a network-based service provider’s hosted platform and support advanced communications capabilities including instant messaging, presence, e-mail and voice portal integration,” McCracken says. “Businesses are starting to recognise the important role that UC applications such as these can play in closing the gap between the contact centre and external knowledge workers and in improving service delivery.”
In a 2009 European business survey conducted by Strateco and commissioned by Aspect, 85% of interviewees stated that they believe UC can improve customer satisfaction by raising service levels and improving first call resolution. 67% indicated that they believe UC will deliver cost advantages within a three to five year timeframe and 83% said that UC will be a competitive differentiator in the future.
“By using our new UC applications, coupled with appropriate UC services support where necessary, we at Aspect believe that organisations can improve customer satisfaction by eight percent, increase first call resolution by five percent, improve productivity by ten percent and reduce overall maintenance costs by 20%,” McCracken concludes.