Despite the positive headlines that cloud-based business processes and apps generate, there is a darker side to our economy’s shift to online and hosted IT services over recent years; one still being played out in offices and workspaces.
The ‘noughties’ saw large and small businesses piling in to buy VoIP systems. These, we were told, would bring about more flexible and cost-effective working for UK plc; especially in smaller firms – the lifeblood of our economy. Sadly, many UK companies never quite got them right.
Despite all the promises, users are condemned by ageing VoIP systems and their inflexible call strategies, leading to agonising waits and repetitive conversations with customer agents (yes, we’ve all been there!)
Somewhere in the hype surrounding ‘business process digitisation’, the voice of the small business owner or harassed office manager, asking for a balance between automation of business process and user control, was ignored. As a result, many small firms must soldier on with clunky user interfaces, inflexible management of call workloads, and rigid vendor cost plans, all of which have contributed towards a failure to meet expectations.
But now, new feature-rich cloud telephony platforms, using open source’s versatility and backed by expert technical support, are supplanting old VoIP systems and delivering a second wave of low-cost and flexible telephony and contact centres – delivering connected processes and agile business capabilities for SMEs.
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Developers of cloud-based phone systems are ‘designing in’ features such as automation of workflows, aggregation of voice and social media channels, and integration with existing CRM applications. These small but high-functionality telephony platforms, with simple and enjoyable interfaces, can be operated across multiple call centre locations and customer touch points. It’s the simplicity and power of the Apple iPhone, replicated for the communication and collaboration needs of the SME.
These cloud telephony systems balance power with ease of use. When most surveys show consumers want voice communication more than other channels, the rise of flexible cloud telephony is timely news for smaller organisations who, above all others, hang their reputation on a personal service and flexible response.
And the operational and cost benefits for SMBs and hard-pressed public organisations are clear. In one case, a small district council, facing capital budget constraints, switched to cloud telephony and is making £30,000 in savings every year over its old on-premised system.
We have helped small firms set up call centres to tie together different CRM databases – agents want customer data in one place rather than having to glance across multiple screens. And we know of private and public organisations that are using cloud telephony systems to spin up new offices overnight in response to growth plans or changing customer needs.
In the earlier Internet era, communications providers used to offer customers bespoke phone systems options, triggering lengthy integration work and support. Today, we still use these technologies to build powerful, feature-rich platforms but they are far simpler for customers to set up and operate. We build-in those intelligent features from the outset, using software that enables simple integration with key applications, and provide management tools that give control to the user rather than to a third-party specialist.
Leading cloud telephony providers have the skills to build powerful and intelligent phone systems that can be integrated with anything. But complexity is easy, simplicity is difficult, and that’s what customers increasingly recognise.