How cloud-voice technologies will power the rebound

21 October 2020

Andrew Halliwell, product director, Virgin Media Business (Direct)

Andrew Halliwell, product director, Virgin Media Business (Direct)

For all the trauma, disruption and suffering the coronavirus pandemic has caused, Covid-19 has also caused some positive and lasting changes for business technology. McKinsey has found that organisations have leapt five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in just a matter of weeks.

While digital transformation has been batted around the boardroom table for many years, we’re now seeing it in action as businesses rapidly change their operating models to better support remote working and new customer needs. For many organisations, the intelligent use of voice, messaging and video collaboration tools and technology has been integral to this pivot and looking ahead, it’s clear it will be critical to a successful Covid-19 rebound.

A new foundation

The role voice and collaboration technology plays in enabling employees to collaborate and communicate efficiently with customers is being reassessed by business leaders in the cold, hard light of Covid-19. These remote working, voice, video and collaboration tools have changed from being part of an employee toolset to being the primary employee experience of working with a business.

Fixed phone lines, the tried telephony model for decades, have been shown to be no longer fit for purpose. They were not built with modern collaboration methods in mind (good luck integrating traditional voice lines and PBX’s with cloud services like Microsoft Teams and Salesforce!) and they don’t offer the flexibility required to quickly make changes to operating models, prioritise particular calls or allow businesses to establish remote contract centres for staff unable to access office locations.

It’s no surprise that business leaders are turning more and more to cloud communications and collaboration services. Recent research has found more than eight in ten IT leaders have ramped up their use of cloud technology in direct response to the pandemic, while two thirds are planning to increase its use for the foreseeable future as their organisations enter their rebound phase. This surge in demand for cloud services reflects a shift in attitude to how organisations are evaluating their voice and collaborations strategies and the technology they need to support this.

They recognise the cloud can better support remote working technologies and serve customers in the quickest, most efficient way possible.
And the added bonus to this accelerated adoption is that it leaves organisations better placed to embrace the benefits of voice innovation.

Growing appetite

One such innovation is the use of smart speakers in the workplace. While the levels of workplace adoption of products such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home is relatively limited in comparison to home adoption (over a fifth of UK households have smart speakers), the potential this technology offers businesses is only just starting to be understood. The sophistication of cloud-based voice systems can now support the integration of AI-oriented voice innovation. When combined with artificial intelligence in the cloud, the possibilities are really exciting. With social distancing likely to persist for many months to come, voice-enabled commands to control devices and office conditions could prove to be a sensible and strategic investment for organisations. Admittedly, this is still at an early stage of adoption, with Alexa for Business being the forerunner technology, but the seeds have been sown for a world where engagement with work devices via voice commands is likely to be more common in future.

Contact centres are also ripe for innovation. With many organisations forced to close contact centres during the lockdown, customers have often struggled to get through to speak with care agents. But better experiences have been enabled by sophisticated virtual contact centres. Using cloud technology, virtual contact centres can be established quickly and continue operating even if key sites have to close.

Staff aren’t reliant upon accessing their usual place of work to use on-premises equipment – instead agents can collaborate faster and work smarter wherever they are. Better yet in a period of extreme uncertainty, they don’t require significant capital investment and can scale with a business and its changing needs.
They also provide opportunities to integrate cloud-driven AI solutions, delivering further benefits to customers.

With faster knowledge-based searches and automated insights, AI solutions can enhance customer support, drive superior client experiences and open the door for more efficient self-service.

But the question remains - how do organisations choose the right cloud solutions to support these technologies?

Be quick but don’t hurry

A recent analysis of 127 enterprise and public sector organisations shows that those furthest along in their cloud journey have been best able to withstand and recover from the crisis.

But with so many cloud solutions available, and a need to make quick decisions in response to the fast-changing situation, organisations shouldn’t rush too quickly into picking a solution. Selecting the wrong technology could easily backfire.

This makes partnering with the right strategic partner – one with deep knowledge capable of advising businesses on where exactly they need to upgrade their core technologies, so they realise the benefits of their investment – absolutely crucial.
These partners tend to be vendors with significant experience helping businesses navigate complexity. They understand that digital transformation doesn’t have to involve ripping everything out and starting again but rather can take place incrementally.

Rebounding with voice

While Covid-19 will change many things about the world of work, voice and collaboration technology have become even more fundamental to how we communicate.
The ways in which we come together to collaborate and serve customers are set to change, so organisations should be thinking about to evolve their voice technology to suit those changing needs.

By seizing the potential of cloud voice and collaboration technology, businesses of all sizes can transform their operations and position themselves to recover, rebound and race ahead of the competition.