Productivity tips for employees are ten-a-penny. Generally, you’ll be relying on your staff to adopt new ways of working that’ll help to free up time in the day for them to perform more of their core tasks.
In reality, these tips often fail to take hold – or, if they do, it’s just with a small percentage of the staff.
If you want to make some significant changes to work volume, you’ve got to look at your overall infrastructure – and make meaningful changes to the way you manage time across your business.
The best place to start looking?
Understanding how you can combine your phones and IT network to maximum effect.
Is it time to reassess what a phone can do?
As a new generation of business owners and decision makers, we naturally inherit some of the ways our predecessors have worked. In many instances, this is a real bonus – after all, who wants to start a company at the same time as working out how to manage your business finances or reinvent the wheel around how you manage your HR operations?
The trouble is, we can sometimes be guilty of simply continuing down the same business lines – simply because “That’s the way we’ve always done things around here”. Phones are a prime example of how this complacency can occur.
For most companies, we use phones to call out of the building. We probably talk to the people who buy our products and services, and we attach our phone number to everything we do, in the hope that people will talk to us too.
The thing is, cell phones have taught us that there’s much more than talking to be done with our devices. In fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of us use our phones for shopping, listening to music, and streaming movies far more than we actually talk. So, how do we unlock some of that functionality for our workplace?
Phones as input devices.
The first part of considering what phones can do for us requires a bit of a thought adjustment.
Rather than thinking about a phone as a communication device, it’s worth thinking of it as an input device. Afterall, since everything we do can be reduced to a series of 1s and 0s, it doesn’t really matter if those 1s and 0s come from our voice, our touchscreens or, less efficiently, when we talk to a customer service rep who then listens, before turning a customer’s request into 1s and 0s.
Elon Musk is quite outspoken on this subject. Musk often talks about how the real weak point between humans and computers is how we interface. This article is being typed at a tiny fraction of the speed my brain can think the same information – and it’s this kind of interface speed that Musk’s company, Neuralink, hopes to accelerate.
Now, if placing chips in your customer’s brains is going to prove to be difficult, we need to think of an alternative – and second best to next-generation brain-surgery comes a phone system that gives your customers a direct link to your systems.
How do these next generation phone systems work?
Talking about linking your customers to your systems might sound complex – but actually, it really only relies on two things:
- Your phones being handled over your IT network infrastructure
- A series of APIs that link your phone system with your business applications
If the idea of a new phone system makes your capital expenditure report twitch, you don’t need to worry. The beauty of running VoIP services is that you’ve already got the infrastructure in place – so there’s no new wiring and engineer costs to consider.
When a customer calls in, you can decide how the call will be handled. Multiple phone lines can be easily brought together as one, so you can pre-screen calls and direct them based on the number that’s been called. Then again, you can greet your customers with a menu should you wish – a kind of virtual reception desk that can handle countless calls at the same time.
The real magic occurs when you give customers the option to interact with your systems. Would you like to facilitate automatic payments? No problem, your phone system will integrate with your payment management applications. Would you like to offer a series of helpdesk style support options? Again, no problem; if your customer can explain their issue, speech to text recognition software can scrutinise the request, search your own internal databases, and deliver a solution – either as a voice reply, or even prompting the create of emails or other written communication that’ll be sent to your customer.
What about if your customer wants to talk to a human?
If this idea of customer-application interface leaves you worried that these next generation phone systems will remove the human element from your business interaction – you don’t need to panic. There are plenty of ways that a VoIP phone system will facilitate smoother interactions between customers and end-users too.
The first comes when you consider the amount of work that most service staff need to do when they end a call. Usually, they’d be expected to action whatever request has come in, before completing some kind of CRM record. With speech to text applications, these are the kind of steps that can be circumvented altogether. Your phone system can automatically transcribe the call, before picking out the key components to be logged against customer records. With the right partner applications, you can even anticipate the next steps your customer service agent might want to take – before offer a one-click option to make those actions happen.
What does all this mean to productivity levels?
In essence, the best next-gen phone systems work to overcome as much of that ‘interface’ problem as is currently possible – and this is a major productivity booster. For most companies, call-handling staff spend only 40% of their time on the phone – with the other 60% taken up actioning the calls that they do handle.
What if these actions could be automated? Or generated and authorised in just a couple of clicks? What if just 10% of your calls could be handled automatically by an AI that provides the service that an employee would? There are no hard and fast answers for these – after all, every company is different – but if you think there’s time to be saved for your customers, it’s worth taking another look at what your phones might be capable of.