Unify Enterprise Communications - Duncan Richardson

A bank's communications strategy is the foundation of its internal productivity and its external customer service. A solution that simplifies, accelerates and clarifies all communications can go a long way to helping a bank carve out competitive advantage. We spoke to Duncan Richardson, enterprise sales, financial services at Unify Enterprise Communications, formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications, about building such a platform.

Banks engage with their customers through more channels than ever before, and are working hard to provide a consistent customer experience across all of them. At the same time, the internal structure of financial services institutions is complex, and the ability for each department to communicate quickly and effectively with others is a fundamental pillar of service delivery. Together, these drivers are pushing banks to consider solutions that simplify and improve their internal and external communications.

Technology vendors understand this problem and have brought to market solutions that specifically target the overall communications strategies of large organisations, including banks. Not all, however, have taken the same approach.

"Internally banks are under pressure to share information quicker and get it right first time. You need to contact the right people immediately across a distributed workforce, which increasingly includes homeworkers, to support customers needs and support internal operations such as trading activities," says Duncan Richardson, enterprise sales, financial services at Unify Enterprise Communications.

"Our solution supports financial services, particularly because users, whether they are B2B or B2C, often rely on a bank's communication capability. Take customers checking their balances online or through mobile devices, for example.
The sheer volume of transactions puts a heavy demand on communications infrastructure," he adds.

Unify has over 150 years' experience of accumulating technological know-how in communications. Around the world today, over 150,000 calls a minute are initiated with Unify technology. Its Openscape Unified Communications (UC) suite is designed to harmonise all forms of communication within an organisation to improve productivity and collaboration.

The software-based UC suite synchronises all technologies into a seamless communication platform to harness to combined power of the IT, voice and application environments. Scalable to 500,000 users, it also connects to Unify's own applications for voice, video, online, mobile and contact centre communications. A key benefit for many verticals, but especially the financial services industry, is the use of open standards in the design of UC.

"Financial services is a key sector for us and, in an industry like banking, where there are often silos within the business, the rip and replace approach to implementing new technology may not be possible or cost-effective, especially in these times of austerity. Technology built on open standards is flexible enough to allow companies to take advantage of new functionality while leveraging their existing IT infrastructure," notes Richardson.

"There are also regulatory demands that affect the reporting and recording of communications, all of which are supported by Unify. The goal is to make communications quicker, regardless of the technologies involved," he adds.

Catching up with the future

The technology agnostic nature of Unify's Openscape UC solution is key to its ability to help banks maximise cost-efficiency, while simultaneously providing the flexibility to keep pace with technological change.

"Externally, the technology used by the general population is quicker to implement and is often more advanced than the technology that sits within a bank. Customers are upgrading their iPhone or Android handsets, using video-conferencing on their iPads and using Livechat, for example, and Openscape allows communication across any device, anywhere," remarks Richardson.

"The result is that the speed of communication increases, so the level of customer service improves, whether those customers are external or internal. A bank that has embedded UC well across several media can take a greater share of the wallet and mitigate risks, particularly those associated with customer service."

Openscape working in tandem with other technologies can help people to find solutions to problems and connect to the right people to answer queries, whether they are from external customers or internal departments, to find the right responses without delay. The result is increased responsiveness to communications to or about the bank in the public domain, and between internal departments, whether it is sales and marketing, customer contact, trading, risk management or compliance.

Furthermore, the ability to stay in touch with technological advances allows banks to better manage their brand in the public domain and differentiate themselves from competitors by responding faster to the choices of their customers.

"Unify's UC solution provides a clear picture of the availability of people within a business to get answers quickly and, where necessary, it can record those conversations. In our experience banks are very interested in emerging areas like the social media space as they have often seen the impact that it can have on a brand - positive and negative. Banks must be able to at least understand and respond to statements or questions on social media," says Richardson.

"There are other emerging areas, too, like the use of near-field communication technology and how it works with enterprise communications for applications like augmented reality. That technology, and how people use it, is advancing, and how banks communicate in this sort of way will set them apart in the years ahead."

A prime example of how a unified communications strategy meets the technology choices of customers and employees is its ability to support 'bring your own device' (BYOD) capability. Employees may, for example, wish to use their own tablet computers or mobile devices to interact with a bank's systems at work. This could improve productivity, but that must not come with the addition of compromised security.

With Openscape, security is assured, giving employees the freedom to access sensitive information through the devices of their choice.

"Openscape enables BYOD and, in the future, bring your own cloud or bring your own application. It supports staff however they choose to communicate. Their choices can be reflected without the bank having to continually upgrade its
IT infrastructure to accommodate new technologies as they are launched. Openscape is robust, secure and flexible enough to accommodate that," explains Richardson.

Making the switch

For banks, the advantages of a unified communications strategy must not come at too high a cost, especially in a climate of austerity and at a time when banks must work harder than ever to ensure customer loyalty.

"It is all about ROI. Productivity is very important and we offer - in parallel with the processes that the technology supports - the ability to improve team productivity in any area of the bank. Banks face more pressure than ever to comply with regulatory requirements and to satisfy their customers, for whom it is easier than ever to switch between institutions and products," notes Richardson.

"Competition is much more intense in today's banking industry and the cost of acquisition of a new customer is rising, so banks must meet their needs better in terms of service, products and speed of response."

Controlling implementation costs is vital when adopting any new technology. The open standards on which Openscape is built mean that costs are kept to a minimum, as there is less need to make fundamental changes to the underlying IT infrastructure.

"Banks have legacy systems so the challenge is around how to implement new functionality without disruption. UC is software-based and uses open standards, so it integrates with existing applications. It is a communications constant across all applications, which interact through a standard platform. It can integrate with new technologies, too, whether or not they are built on a Unify platform," explains Richardson. Unify is certainly not the only vendor to look closely at unified communications, but it has taken a different tack to its competitors in solving the problems of harmonising all modes of communication, and keeping implementation simple and cost-effective. Its solution is designed for many different verticals, but it could have been tailor-made for the financial services sector.

"The open standards approach is unique to us, as most vendors use proprietary technology with bolt-ons. We also have an extremely broad portfolio of our own technology and fantastic experience in managed services, so we offer a 'walk in, take over' service for any technology from any vendor," says Richardson.

"Openscape UC is a fundamental layer that is secure, quick and reliable to execute. It gives competitive advantage through enhanced internal and external communication.

Banks engage with their customers through more channels than ever before, and are working hard to provide a consistent customer experience across all of them.
We spoke to Duncan Richardson about building such a platform.