Some of you may be thinking that the acceleration of digital communications must surely portend the decline of the telephone, in fact one or two of may be wondering how long it will be until the ubiquitous chunk of plastic will disappear from our desks altogether. Whatever it is you are thinking some things are for sure, one is that despite being 140 years old, the original “killer app” – the telephone, which has evolved little from the basic concept of “two cups and a piece of string” is a utility and like the electricity grid, is unlikely to go away anytime soon. The other thing that is for certain, is that until very recently the phone has made little ground in the way of opportunity for businesses to provide a positive, intelligent and differentiated customer experience, the way that digital has been able to.
Yet voice still rules, which is perhaps not so surprising when you consider that the spoken word is the most efficient way for people to not just convey their wants, needs and service offerings but also their sentiments as emotion forming a crucial piece of communication which is largely absent from digital communications such as email and Instant Messaging.
In a recent study by the University of Sussex Innovation Centre it was found that text communications like email is a transactional communications channel – but when it comes to trust, relationship building and delivering a high quality communications experience, many organisations still need to talk which is why voice still makes up over 60% of voice communications today.
But before we start exploring where Voice technology is heading it might be worthwhile taking a brief look at some of the recent history leading up to where we are today.
Firstly for the Millennial’s amongst us who may not have even heard of a PBX; A PBX is a Business Telephone System also known as a telephone switch that serves a private organization and performs concentration of central office phone lines and provides intercommunication between a large number of telephone stations in the organization.
A PBX is usually located on a business’s premises and has made but incremental improvements over time largely focused on reducing cost. An on-premise Digital or IP PBX offered very little in by way of improvement over an on-premise analog PBX restricted by old telecom infrastructure such as limited channel ISDN lines.
The problem with on premise is that you are restricted to a geographic location, if you want to expand to another office you will need to buy and manage another PBX. Additionally on-premise PBX offers no disaster recovery protection so if you have a power outage or disaster event it will knock out our telephone system leaving your business and customers stranded.
On-premise PBX systems were also expensive from a capital expenditure perspective and if you had multiple offices it was difficult to unify all your locations into a single organization so that staff could short-code extension dial one another between offices for example. The other major downside of the on-premise PBX is that it is often complicated to setup and make changes to dial plans and IVR for example causing expensive dependencies on third party service providers to make simple changes.
The next phase of evolution of business telephony put the PBX into a Hosted environment. Hosted PBX helped solve some of the geographic and disaster recovery challenges however a Hosted PBX solution was really just a PBX in someone else’s building and the underlying PBX being hosted could not scale and unifying offices in across different countries wasn’t possible either.
The logical extension of the Hosted PBX strategy is a fully muti-tenented Cloud PBX which unlike Hosted PBX solves the challenge of scalability allowing you to add users as your business grows regardless of their location.
As you keep moving up the evolutionary scale you can start marrying your phone system with other services such as CRM integration and Contact Centre, elevating the phone way beyond the original concept of “2 cups and a piece of string” which I will touch on a bit later.
Global Cloud PBX
Natterbox has taken this evolution a step further. For example when you make a call to a local number over the PSTN the call is switched locally and you generally have a good local call experience and one that we have all become accustomed to. One of the challenges of Cloud Telephony has to do with your location relative to the Cloud telephony service. for example if you are in the UK and make a local call but your Cloud telephony service is really in America the two parties on the call are going to experience the kind of call lag you get when making an overseas call. Because even though you are calling a local number, your call is in fact traversing the globe and incurring call latency.
At Natterbox we have been in this business for a long time now and because many of our customers operate in multiple geographies we know that international call lag on a local call is not an acceptable user experience. Remembering that the telephone is 140 years old technology and just works, we think that Cloud telephony service should perform the same way.
Natterbox solved this problem for our customers by having multiple data centres in all the major geographies operating as a single cloud , however the difference is that we perform the call switching locally or as proximate to the calling parties as possible mitigating international call lag and delivering the PSTN user experience that our customers are accustomed to.
Ok we have talked a little about Infrastructure, but what really matters is the Application.
Arguably the biggest trend in modern day telephony is that most people have multiple devices so they can be reached wherever they are. In the world of digital communications this works really well because in the digital world you communicate “with a person” via your chosen service, Email, IM etc and the person you are communicating with will consume the message depending on their circumstances and which device they happen to be using at the time. However in the world of the telephone, to reach someone you need to call a specific number. So why can’t the telephone be more like our favourite digital services? We think that Voice should work in the same way as Digital and Natterbox makes this concept a reality by routing the call to you regardless of which of your numbers was dialled.
Cloud PBX makes this and communicating internally extremely easy. For example right now if you want to call a colleague overseas you will probably have to make an international call. And if you are lucky enough to be able to call their short dial extension your company probably paid over the odds for that small convenience. With Natterbox it’s just part of the service.
This capability translated into global scalability previously out of reach for SME businesses wanting to expand into International markets, such as the ability to do “Follow the Sun support” based on Time based Rules without having forward calls to International numbers. And manage everything from a one single account.
To quote Richard Branson “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees they will take care of your clients’. What Branson is getting at is giving employees the tools and systems to enable them to provide personalised customer service is at the heart of every successful enterprise. The challenge is that the more successful you become harder it is to provide personalized service. Personalised service becomes a victim of its own success.
This runs counter intuitive to the fact that no matter which company you call whether you are their most important customer or someone who is calling for the very first time you get treated in exactly the same way… The dreaded IVR
IVR is rated as one of the biggest bug bares when it comes to telephone service. In fact 6 out of 10 customers will ditch a company because of poor telephone service.
Your organisation like most invests a great deal in collecting information about your customers and even more expense to house it in Salesforce and Service Cloud so it can be analysed and put to competitive use. But what if you could extend the use of this information improve your customers experience? You could do away with IVR for example! What kind of impact would that have on your organsations competitiveness?
To help extend your ability to provide personalised customer service as your business scales Natterbox integration of Cloud PBX with Salesforce allows you to perform Relationship based routing automatically making intelligent routing decisions based on data in Salesforce.
For example when your customer calls in, Natterbox can query Salesforce, for their account manager and route the call direct to them for better customer experience.
That is a really basic example so here is a more complex one.
What if a customer calls at say 9pm, Do you want the call?
Depends on the customer,
How valuable are they?
Where are they located?
What is the health of the customer?
Do they have open support tickets?
Natterbox can manage the call based on customer status or importance such as revenue, time of day or your status.
You can pretty much manage every call based on any data and multiples data values in Salesforce and its dead easy.
Natterbox also extends our Integration with Salesforce.com with our Single Sign on CTI client lets you make a receive calls inside Salesforce and Service Cloud. The best thing about this is Natterbox captures 100% of calls and logs them into SFDC removing any dependence on users having to manually document their calls. The productivity dividends from this simple function are enormous reducing average call wrap uptime by a third and clawing back up to 40% of a salespersons time spent on CRM admin giving them more time to dedicate to selling.
The dividend for your business is that you get 100% visibility about what is going on in your business. We don’t just capture call activity data we also record calls and make the recording available for playback from the relevant Salesforce record.
And because we are in the call flow we capture all the call data and write it to a customer object in Salesforce and provide over 120 preconfigured call reports which you can further customise to meet your business needs.
So that is a snapshot of where we are today. But where we are going is equally as exciting. Natterbox is fast becoming the global telephony platform of choice integrated with Salesforce.com for the Micro-Multinational organisation. Our next generation of Cloud Telephony will put the entire provisioning and management of your global telephone system inside Salesforce.com. If you would like to learn more please register for one of our upcoming expert webinars.
– Neil Hammerton, CEO