This is a guest post by Irwin Lazar of Nemertes. Irwin develops and manages research projects, conducts and analyzes primary research, and advises enterprise and vendor clients on technology strategy, adoption and business metrics. He is responsible for benchmarking the adoption and use of emerging technologies in the digital workplace, covering enterprise communications and collaboration as an industry analyst for over 20 years. We thank him for his contribution to our blog.
Today’s workers have a myriad of collaboration tools at their fingertips. Team collaboration apps enable one-on-one and group messaging. Conferencing tools increasingly support video. Document collaboration platforms enable groups to write and edit at the same time. And of course, there’s the veritable phone for making voice calls.
Alongside collaboration tools are business applications for customer relationship management, project and task management, marketing, business operations, accounting, and more. According to the Nemertes Research “Digital Customer Experience Research 2018-19 Research Study”, the average organization uses 29 apps for customer delivery and management alone!
This explosion of apps creates confusion and friction. Workers are constantly switching back and forth between apps to do their jobs. Customer interactions are cumbersome, and the potential for error arises as information is copied between apps. In small businesses, often lacking in-house IT resources, the challenge of which app to use, how to bring data between apps, and the lack of integration is especially problematic, leading to lost sales, poor customer service, frustrated workers, and an inability to take advantage of emerging capabilities to differentiate competitively by improving customer engagement.
To solve these challenges, organizations must embrace collaboration solutions that offer connectivity to each other, and to existing and planned business applications. The core requirement is selecting a communications provider that offers a rich set of APIs, enabling workflow integrations, easy access to new functionality, customized development, and support for emerging technologies like IoT.
Nemertes finds that already about 13% of organizations are using APIs to embed UC functions like call control into existing business apps, while 9% are using APIs to create customized capabilities like unique call routing and reporting. Small businesses, in most cases, look to partners or packaged solutions to obtain the integrations and customized capabilities that they need. Examples include:
- Integration of text messaging into customer management applications, enabling texting of reminders and notifications, as well as allowing customers to contact a company via text
- Adding virtual or temporary phone numbers to support marketing campaigns or to establish an out-of-market local presence
- Integration of sensors and communications. For example, a physician could receive a text notification and automatically create a call if a patient’s home health monitor generates an alarm
- Integration of web sites and communications platforms, enabling customers to chat with sales reps through a web site portal, or instant creation of a notification message when a new prospect registers on a web site, or app
- Text-based marketing campaigns to support loyalty programs, and to notify customers of special events and offers
- Texting of sales and/or customer support personnel when a key customer places an order, or when an order value exceeds a pre-defined dollar value
In most cases, API-based services like text messaging and virtual phone numbers are billed on a per-use basis, but additional flexibility, especially in high utilization environments, can come from flat rate or unlimited billing models.
Small business operators looking at how to improve internal workflows and customer engagement should evaluate the capabilities of their communication services partners to not only provide a rich set of features with flexible billing models, but to also deliver pre-built or customized integration services that allow for rapid deployment, monitoring, and management, across a wide range of business application types.