Over the past few years, voice technology has moved on. The price point of sophisticated IP-based voice applications has fallen, as have data storage costs. This double development has brought advanced voice-based applications within easy reach of SMEs.
Demand among SMEs has simultaneously been driven by a need to increase business efficiency. Recent research conducted by Sage found that 36 per cent of SME employees were unable to reach co-workers on the first attempt, and this resulted in missed deadlines at least once a week for 13 per cent of respondents. Staff productivity is lost because employees have too many devices to check. We all spend too much of our lives checking email accounts, as well as instant messaging, mobiles and voicemail.
Wouldn’t it be better if users could at least display and prioritise response to all incoming communications through a single device, whether that be through desktops or PDAs, rather than constantly scanning systems to get the complete picture? This is an area where IP-based unified communications can help, and this message is starting to get through to smaller businesses.
Industry research supports this trend. Cisco-commissioned research revealed that 29 per cent of SMEs have integrated voice systems into their IP networks to cut voice costs.
There is also demand in SME call centres for tighter integration between voice systems and CRM packages. This means that an incoming call can be routed to the operator who normally handles that customer, as identified by his telephone number, and can then display his record on the operator’s screen before taking the call. This sort of integration drives up efficiency and reduces the time it takes to handle customer problems. It also gives staff more confidence when handling calls because they have everything they need at their fingertips.
Resellers that are willing to embrace some of the newer IP telephony technology will find that they are quickly able to offer their SME customers affordable yet sophisticated functionality such as CRM integration, call recording and archiving, zoned broadcasting, seamless remote working and virtual call centre applications.
Justin Turner is OneVoice business manager at Comstor.
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