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Financial institutions can benefit from unified communications


Security and cost concerns often deter financial institutions from embracing new technology. Some institutions, however, are finding that unified communications technology can streamline operations and improve customer service, while preserving security and lowering expenses.

Whether you are a bank, savings institution, trust organization, credit union, mortgage company or finance company, your business can be hindered by an older phone system that cannot connect potential customers with the right personnel or transfer accurate account information. Even mobile technology can be of limited value when superimposed onto outdated systems.

A unified communications system integrates telephone service, messaging, voicemail, team workspaces and conferencing. Convergence plays into several important business trends:

  • Mobility:  Employees can be reached anytime, anywhere, on any device. Trying to locate loan officers in the field? One number will find them wherever they are.
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Do your employees all have personal preferences in smartphones, tablets or laptops? Calls and messages can be routed directly to a business app on employee devices.
  • Teleworkers: Employees can take their work phone to their home office and call through a secure gateway to the main phone system. The user experience is the same as on an office phone.
  • The disappearing desk phone: Companies are replacing desktop handsets with “softphones”—not exactly phones, but software that uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to place calls over computers. Hardware cost savings are so significant that experts predict phone handsets will rarely be seen on desks in 10 years.
  • Contact centers: No longer just “call centers,” today’s systems route voice calls, emails and instant messages to one place.

Implementing UC technology

Implementing a unified communications system can be a significant undertaking, but need not be cost-prohibitive and can be done incrementally. Here are some basic steps in evaluating your needs:

  • Identify the appropriate platform. Assess how well the current system works for your business. Could it be integrated with new features? Should it be replaced with a VoIP system?
  • On-premises phone system or cloud? As technological complexity increases, some companies no longer wish to manage their phone systems. One option is to keep the system on-site and hire an outside company to manage it; another is to move the entire system to the cloud. The big difference being a capital versus operational expenditure.
  • Update and maintain. Set a regular maintenance schedule that includes updates, upgrades and security updates.

Taking advantage of a UC system’s many possibilities

Once a unified communications platform is chosen, it can be expanded with features such as the following:

  • Team workspaces: Apps such as Microsoft’s SharePoint and Mitel’s MiTeam enable work teams to publish projects, exchange notes, conduct branch checkoffs and keep track of project communications—all in one space.
  • Social data mining: Online comments by customers can trigger alerts that let staff follow-up personally or reply directly to posts on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM): Customers can be automatically routed to a familiar contact so they do not have to repeat themselves every time they contact the company. If the customer’s usual contact is unavailable, the call can go to an employee with similar skills. A customer’s transaction history can be generated based on the incoming phone number.
  • Access to resources: Rather than provide a full range of services at every branch, institutions can introduce clients to services at other locations by setting up teleconferences.
  • Right-sizing insights: Real-time and historical reporting of agent idle time, call duration, abandoned call rates and customer hold times can help management assess staff levels.
  • Customizing customer experience: Financial institutions can design contact centers to route customers to live agents, automated phone trees or a hybrid of the two.

RSM Takeaway: An updated phone system can deliver significant competitive advantages to financial institutions by lowering costs, improving customer service and enhancing efficiency. Financial institutions that do not take full advantage of the possibilities risk being overrun by competitors who leverage their communications systems to benefit their operations.