By Jason S., IT director for a mid-sized business
Most IT professionals choose this profession because they love technology. We read about advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics and keep up on the latest gadgets — and we do it for fun. We want to be at the forefront of innovation and use emerging technology to solve real-world problems for the businesses that employ us and we care about. But in reality, many of us spend our workdays maintaining technology that's nearly as old as we are, regularly apologizing to our employers and co-workers for all the things that outdated business communications tech can't do.
For example, oftentimes employees received a "no" as a response from my IT team. No, we can't integrate those information systems. You'll just have to log into all three systems and toggle back and forth. No, we can't forward all your calls to your mobile phone every time you step out of the office. No, we can't ensure communications are secure when everyone is working from home. No, we can't have workstations ready for five new employees by tomorrow morning.
Then, with a strategic plan in place, we successfully moved business communications to the cloud — and now I get to say yes. Can we automatically log sales calls in the customer relationship management (CRM) platform? Yes. Can we prompt them to add notes about each call in real time? Yep. Can we record customer service calls for quality assurance? You bet. Can we add voice assistance, chatbots, and automated SMS? Thanks to communication application programming interfaces, the answer is a resounding yes, yes, and yes.
It didn't take long to integrate critical business apps that different customer-facing teams rely on across the organization — including CRM, several marketing automation tools, and a wide variety of social media marketing apps. Now, our business communications platform enables employees to access all the customer information and communications channels they need in the same place: our unified communications platform. They can effectively work from home or on the go, or anywhere they have an internet connection, as well as route calls to their mobile phone or a co-worker, ensuring customer calls are always answered. They can also collaborate with team members, partners, and vendors around the country or even around the world, using whatever channels make the most sense for each conversation.
This is a game-changer for a growing small business.
The sales director, for example, expressed frustration about her team not updating the CRM since she hired her first sales representative. Now, it's all done for them. The warehouse manager told me I'm a tech genius because we can finally send automated delivery status updates to customers via SMS, which has cut down on the number of customer service calls and missed deliveries.
Of course, I could say that no one appreciates it more than the head of customer service. The AI-enhanced cloud contact center we quickly launched at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic ensured that customer calls continued to get answered and their needs met. Not only could customer service agents work securely and safely from their homes, but they had chatbots and voice assistants to help lighten the load on the small human team.
Even now that many have returned to the office, management still encourages a hybrid work environment. The resilient, innovative technology allows the company to be flexible with employees — and in an era that has been dubbed the Great Resignation, our leaders know it's important to provide not just a satisfying customer experience, but also a satisfying employee experience.
That includes my tireless IT skeleton crew, who couldn't be more thrilled about our recent cloud migration. For years, they bore the brunt of employee frustration with outdated legacy technology. In the digital age, everyone knows what's possible with the right technology in place. Our co-workers know based on their personal lives how seamless business communications can be and how successful a user experience should be. They didn't understand why we couldn't make things work like that in the workplace — but now we can.
Goodbye Busywork, Hello High-Value Wins
Since our cloud migration, we've been able to quickly add communications capabilities and services to workflows across the business. Having the cloud infrastructure and integrations in place has made it possible for my skeleton crew to scale IT as the company has grown over the past year. For one thing, we don't have to set up workstations for new employees. Instead, we can assign them a computer and login for the unified communications platform. We don't have to spend time installing updates every few months. Our cloud provider handles all of that for us by ensuring we get new features and functionality at the same time it's rolled out, without my team needing to lift a finger. There's no hardware for us to maintain and no "seats" to license. We pay for what we use and can easily add or remove new users.
Not only does this approach leave me with more time to complete bigger IT projects that align with overall business goals, but it also results in more available funds in the budget. Both will be increasingly helpful as our small business continues to grow and channels evolve. And as my role continues to evolve — from fixer to innovator, from someone who keeps the lights on to someone who helps streamline operations across the organization — we can further extend the brand's digital footprint.