Reaping the Benefits of Unified Communications

Companies are using unified communications to enhance collaboration tools, social media, messaging capabilities and mobile interaction across their operations.

One company banking on UC to boost connectedness is HarborOne Credit Union, a Brockton, Mass., financial institution with 14 full-service branches, 13 freestanding ATMs, 400 employees and approximately $1.8 billion in assets. The company, which was established in 1917, has always strived to stay current with technology, notes Wayne Dunn, senior vice president and chief technology officer. "About five years ago we recognized a need to transition to a unified communications and collaboration platform. It was part of an overall business process optimization strategy," Dunn says.

Previously, HarborOne relied on a frame relay network and a series of disconnected services, tools and applications to manage IP telephony and communications. "We recognized that we had to have a more holistic solution in place," Dunn says. But, at the same time, "we were faced with the challenge of building out endpoints at a reasonable cost,” says Dunn. “We needed to have robust capabilities, but have everything fit into a defined budget." The company had already settled on Microsoft Lync to provide unified communications software for voice, IM, Web conferencing and video. But it needed to build an environment that could connect effectively to its contact center.

After conducting an extensive review of existing infrastructure and analyzing the organization's future needs, the credit union adopted a unified IP solution from Aspect Software. The integrated approach to collaboration and customer contact allows HarborOne to provide customer service by telephone and direct IM. In addition, because of the integration with Lync, bankers, representatives and others can more easily pinpoint available experts in the organization and route questions or issues to them for quick resolution.

"With the call center client on the desktop, we can easily hand off a customer question, a problem or an interaction to Microsoft Lync and find the right person to address the issue," Dunn explains. For example, when a customer walks into a HarborOne branch and asks about a mortgage or refinance, a manager can immediately connect the customer to a mortgage origination expert—even if the person is located in a different office. It's also possible to initiate a videoconferencing session or instant messaging stream to obtain immediate answers and fill out an application. In addition, customers can use the videoconferencing and IM features from home.

UC has profoundly changed the way the institution interacts with its customers. "We can take care of the customer's needs immediately," Dunn says. "The process can take place immediately rather than it involving call-backs and a series of back-and-forth exchanges that can span days." As a result, the firm's customer satisfaction level now ranks consistently above 95 percent in the "very good" to "excellent" categories. Moreover, HarborOne has increased its market share across many of the communities it serves and witnessed a 20 percent spike in contact center sales. The credit union is now making a growing array of UC features available on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, as well.

Making New Connections

In the past, unified communications has centered on technology that's used and managed on premises. These systems deliver a high degree of control and configurability, particularly for enterprises with workers clustered at central locations. However, cloud-based solutions are now also drifting into the enterprise landscape. In many instances, they offer a more flexible and scalable approach for organizations with numerous offices and large numbers of mobile workers. They're also attractive because they can lower capital expenditure costs.

Approximately 25 percent of organizations have adopted a cloud-based approach to UC videoconferencing and 38 percent are using, evaluating or planning for a cloud-based contact center, Nemertes Research shows. Kervin says the growing acceptance of cloud-based UC demonstrates that executives are comfortable using the technologies to manage key capabilities and infrastructure. Some organizations are also using hybrid UC systems that tap into both on-premise capabilities for large offices and domestic locations but also cloud-based systems for international offices.

This article was originally published on 05-22-2013
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