How to Optimize Business Process ROI with Unified Communications

By Gary Barnett  |  Posted 2010-03-11

How to Optimize Business Process ROI with Unified Communications

Expanding a unified communications (UC) strategy to business processes in the contact center can extend the benefits outside the enterprise to the end consumer, ultimately leading to improved customer satisfaction. But it requires IT groups to look at the technological and architectural considerations that are central to external, customer-facing business processes. Optimizing business processes such as customer service, collections, and sales can result in a rapid ROI, as we observed in our own deployments across our global office locations and contact center sites.

To optimize your ROI from a unified communications strategy, consider the following six steps to deploy in the contact center:

Step No. 1: Determine the goals of your UC strategy

If you haven't developed your UC business plan or set your goals, now is the time to determine what your organization is looking to get out of a UC strategy. This includes evaluating current communication channels and business processes because UC can be a catalyst for new processes that were previously not possible (such as easily contacting people across different departments and functions in virtual locations).

For us, streamlining communications and business processes were key goals, so the contact center played an important role in our UC deployment. We knew our customers would be able to benefit from our planning and deployment, so we incorporated the contact center into our UC strategy from the very beginning of the UC rollout. Lowering costs in terms of maintenance and telephony was another goal, which factors into the next step.

Step No. 2: Review the technical environment and customer interaction model

After determining end goals, review the technical environment and customer interaction model. There are a number of questions that companies need to consider when reviewing infrastructure for a contact center deployment:

1. What are your existing UC solutions today? What capabilities are you providing to your internal users (for example, e-mail, voice mail, presence, Web/video/audio conferencing)?

2. Is your telephony infrastructure aging? Are you planning to integrate your PBX with your UC technology?

3. Have you analyzed your telecom contracts for impact on moving to internal voice over IP (VOIP) or conferencing?

Asking the right questions and evaluating the existing architecture will help a company to determine how the technology will impact various business processes.

For example, in our UC implementation, we reviewed our infrastructure and found that we had a fragmented infrastructure due to mergers and acquisitions over a number of years, with different legacy telephony hardware in place in various offices and world regions. Our UC investments needed to increase effective communications and collaboration among a staff spread across many time zones and in a mix of office and work-at-home environments. We determined that we would need to eliminate 16 PBXs across the company.

Customer Contact and Internal Communications

Step No. 3: Determine the tools necessary for comprehensive customer contact and internal communications

IT teams need to evaluate infrastructure requirements, while also working with operational teams to determine how the technology may affect internal communication processes and external customers. It is imperative for organizations to understand how existing technology can work with UC tools such as presence, instant messaging (IM), conferencing and unified messaging. Companies should also evaluate whether existing infrastructure and tools such as PBXs will be able to move their UC strategy forward, or how their existing investments can be augmented with upgrades or additional capabilities to truly leverage UC.

For example, the use of presence, conferencing and IM can be embedded into the systems and applications to enable issues to be addressed based on pre-defined conditions, removing latency, accelerating problem resolution and eliminating human intervention.

Step No. 4: Roll out your UC technology in a phased approach, especially across the contact center

Deploying UC technology in a phased approach is critical, especially for a multisite global organization. Implementing technology by different sites involves installation, configuration, development and testing of UC solutions, desktop/server hardware and software, network changes, testing, and ensuring that these technologies work seamlessly with key contact center capabilities such as inbound call routing, IM routing and voice portal functionality.

In our UC implementation, we needed unified contact center capabilities that leveraged presence technology to determine the availability of experts in other departments. Implementing new telephony infrastructures in our centers in the United States, Europe, India and China required a detailed rollout schedule to ensure continuity in service and support across different regions.

Employees and Contact Center Agents

Step No. 5: Educate employees/agents and foster culture for unified communications

Communicating regularly with employees and contact center agents is important to user adoption and a seamless customer experience. This stage involves the development and execution of adoption and putting a production support strategy in place, including a change readiness assessment, knowledge transfer, communications plan and user training.

After rolling out UC in our organization, we scheduled small group sessions for training employees on how to use the technology. We also had regular communications and updates on the implementation, e-mailing employees when we reached major milestones in the rollout. Our contact center staff quickly learned how to call other employees with point-and-click call functionality.

Step No. 6: Measure your progress in UC-enabled business processes and identify areas for improvement

A successful UC implementation will deliver reduced costs in telephony and maintenance. But to measure improvements in business processes, a company will need to gauge customer satisfaction to determine whether UC is really improving customer-company communications. Companies must measure customer feedback through post-call surveys, transactional surveys and call monitoring to pinpoint areas for improvement.

In our case, we found that the UC technology, coupled with unified contact center capabilities, reduced call hold time by 76 percent and improved customer satisfaction scores by 6 percent. UC helped us streamline our business processes, saving us more than $20,000 per month in telephony costs and reduce conferencing costs by $1 million in the first year of implementation. In our case, the cost savings were an immediate benefit of the deployment but any company that carefully plans a UC rollout with goals in mind should look at extending the UC capabilities to the contact center.

Clearly, UC has the potential to save significant costs, but it can also deliver ROI by improving communications with customers, streamlining business processes and, ultimately, changing the way companies communicate.

Gary Barnett is the Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Technical Services and Research & Development at Aspect. As CTO, Gary is responsible for corporate planning, product architecture, and product lifecycle management. He also oversees strategic partnerships and long-term product integration plans that support enterprise-level applications. As Executive VP, Gary ensures that customers receive the level of product support required to achieve their goals in collections, customer service, and sales and telemarketing. Gary also leads the company's technology development effort and is responsible for delivering all current and future Aspect solutions.

Previously, Gary served as president and CEO at Aspect. Before that, Gary was a founding engineer at Octel Communications. In 1987, Gary was a founder of Prospect Software, a company that pioneered computer-telephony integration in the early 1990s. Gary holds a Bachelor's degree from Western Kentucky University and a Master's degree in Computer Science from the University of Kentucky. He can be reached at

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