Unify Enterprise Communications: Drivers of Change - Wolfram Fischer
The past few years have seen a transformation in the way financial institutions communicate, both internally and with their customers. New regulatory requirements have resulted in the need for broader collaboration within banks, as departments coordinate to implement the changes in an effective and commercial manner.
At the same time, banks are now obliged to give customers much more information about the products and services on offer. Ensuring constant communication requires an increase in the number and variety of access channels, and in this dynamic market, they must be put into place as quickly as possible.
In the opinion of Wolfram Fischer, general manager of EMEA & APAC at Unify Enterprise Communications, this can only be achieved through a more flexible, less silo-based approach - communication channels should become less process-specific and more horizontal in nature, and the traditional push-and-pull forms of engagement, along with newer web-based methods, need to be merged into an integrated interface.
"In the past, banks have organised their call centres to automate in a tailored way," explains Fischer. "The approach was geared towards a customer request regarding a specific task. In the future, there will be a more knowledgeable customer base that requires a transparent, flexible engagement model. The same goes for communications within the bank. Communication needs to be open and occur regardless of a dedicated business process."
Unify's chief integrated communications solution is known as OpenScape UC. It removes the legacy barriers between traditionally separate voice, video and unified communications systems to support a comprehensive suite of collaboration applications.
These include enterprise-grade voice with carrier-grade scalability and reliability, IP least-cost routing, videoconferencing, role-based UC applications, and comprehensive mobility and contact centre solutions.
The OpenScape UC platform also offers Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn protocols as a response to rapidly changing consumer behaviour. Although around 50% of business processes in large enterprises, and a similar number in the financial services industry, are still voice-initiated, social media could play a key role in freeing up space for other channels of communication.
"If customers want to have a better and more coherent service so they don't have to wait for the call agent to be freed up in the queue, they can reach out through Facebook or Twitter," says Fischer.
"This is particularly useful during times of high demand; for example, if the stock market goes up and a customer wants to place their last order before the bell rings. Latency and availability are so important today."
All needs served
Ultimately, a unified communications platform needs to fulfil the requirements of three parties. The first of these is the end-user, who must be able to communicate with the bank at their convenience through a means that is best for them. Fischer is keen to emphasise the importance of simple user interfaces and good training in order to get the best out of these integrated platforms.
"People often underestimate the training required to move to a new communications system," he says. "People become used to processes, so you have to make sure the new solution is straightforward from both an access and security point of view; for example, you should minimise the number of passwords required to obtain access."
Secondly, a chief information or chief technology officer needs to make sure that the infrastructure is secure, effective and easily aligned with the existing IP-based infrastructure.
Fischer believes that many underestimate the costs associated with this process, often by a considerable margin. Cost-effective, standardised solutions are out there if banks are willing to look for them.
"Typically, the customer has legacy applications and infrastructure that need to be integrated with the new environment," Fischer explains. "Banks often take it too easy because they think, 'we've done this before'. They sometimes end up 30-40% off budget. A big reason for this is that banks often forget to use standardised best practices from across the industry. These processes are defined and well established."
From a strategic perspective, CEOs need to know that changing to a new communication platform will see a good return on investment and lead to an improved customer experience. This, in turn, will help increase the bank's revenue stream and profit.
Faster decision-making will allow banks to take advantage of new business opportunities, expand into new markets and identify merger and acquisition opportunities. Enhanced communications also reduce the employees' need to travel, leading to a greatly reduced carbon footprint.
To make sure these goals are achieved, it is necessary to obtain a thorough knowledge of business processes and the role that communication technologies play in making them run. Most C-level executives are strong in this respect, although the growing penchant for outsourcing somewhat complicates things.
"A lot of processes are outsourced to a third-party provider," says Fischer. "By doing this, they are less able to understand how their business process is working and how it is supported by communication tools. They will have a multichannel sales approach that will need to support mobility, wireless access and cloud, while being easily accessible and secure. You need knowledge of all these protocols, which is more difficult to achieve when you outsource."
Looking ahead, Fischer sees further big changes in the ways banks will communicate, as the number of integrated technologies grows.
Cloud-procurement opportunities, especially in the call centre, will become increasingly pervasive as banks look for a more cost-effective way to deal with periods of peak demand.
It could potentially give banks a reliable, low-risk, lowcost call centre solution without the fees associated with buying, managing and upgrading the communications infrastructure. 'Pay-as-you-go' pricing means customers will only pay for what they use, which can reduce call costs by up to 30%.
"Cloud procurement and the development of latency means that banks will be able to ramp up or ramp down capacity in a much more flexible way," Fischer says. "Whether they need 1,000 agents or only 50, they can make the necessary arrangements. Many have made significant investment in catering for peak demand, which, while not a waste of money, is a very high premium to pay for availability."
He also sees a continuation in the trend towards greater mobility, particularly within the bank. With time-to-market so important, and collaboration the best way to achieve it, decisions often need to be made while employees are out of the country or away from their computers. In addition, employees increasingly want to use the technology of their choice, not what is prescribed them.
"Today, you can no longer say that you must rely on a PC or notebook with a web browser," Fischer says. "You also need to support smartphones and tablets, as well as traditional call functions. And clients in wealth management are increasingly looking to video technology as the best way to communicate with a client when they are not in their office. You need to use all available communication technology."
The benefits of moving to a more integrated communications platform are clear. As well as enabling better internal collaboration and improving the customer experience, it can prove a genuine driver of revenue.