Manufacturers can benefit from a unified communications system
INSIGHT ARTICLE |
It has been said that some things are not appreciated until they are gone. For many manufacturers, this holds true for their phone systems. Telecommunications, if they are thought of at all, are often not seen as critical and, in fact, are poorly maintained. Many manufacturers have legacy systems that have been in place for decades. Any thought of replacing them is seen as prohibitively expensive.
Other manufacturers, however, are finding that their phone systems—kept up to date and properly maintained—help them reduce costs, streamline operations and improve service. More than providing a network for talking to colleagues and coworkers, these business communications systems are a convergence of data, voice and video that provides a competitive advantage.
Kept up to date and properly maintained, phone systems can help reduce costs, streamline operations and improve service.
Manufacturers who are not taking advantage of all their phone systems have to offer risk losing an opportunity for a competitive advantage.
Implementing new or upgraded systems need not be cost prohibitive and can be done incrementally.
Benefits of a unified communications system
Most manufacturers understand at least some of the advantages to be gained from an updated phone system. In the 2016 RSM Monitor survey of manufacturers, 65 percent of participants claim to have implemented mobile technologies and 19 percent have plans to do so.
Yet 17 percent have no plans to implement mobile communications and this could be a strategic miscalculation. Sales and marketing investments, for example, can be inhibited by an older phone system that cannot connect potential customers or vendors with the right personnel. Customer service can be constrained if systems are not integrated and cannot transfer accurate account information. Mobile technology can be of limited value if it is superimposed onto outdated systems.
A truly unified communications system can offer a number of opportunities for manufacturers seeking to benefit from the latest technology:
Enhanced connectivity: Businesses cannot assume that people will be found at their desks. Increased mobility is the expectation of everyone from clients to vendors, management to shop floor personnel. For example, the right phone system can seamlessly route customers to anyone on the road. Foremen can be reached without being anchored to a landline mounted to a post on the shop floor. Contractors can be connected with managers at any location.
Improved reporting and customer relationships: Systems can be set up to allow sales people to view a customer’s data when that customer calls. Alternatively, the system can serve as part of the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system: Customers can be routed to a familiar salesperson so they do not have to repeat themselves every time they contact the company. If that salesperson is not available, or if the company prefers, calls can be routed based on skills-oriented criteria.
Expanded customer service: Response time to customer requests can be improved through instant messaging suites and by routing voicemail messages to email. Clients and vendors can call one number rather than spend time going through a series of calls to track an individual down. Company personnel can maintain their privacy when they no longer have to provide customers with their personal mobile phone number.
Increased savings: Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) allows calls to be made over the internet, substantially reducing charges for long-distance calls. Softphones—the software programs that allow users to make these calls through their computers—can also control costs by directing purchases primarily to software licenses and away from more expensive hardware charges.
One Midwest manufacturer, for example, found that its outdated phone system was becoming increasingly unreliable and provided little insight regarding the performance of its call center. With an upgrade to its phone system, the company was able to improve customer service through its real-time and historical reporting on data points such as agent idle time, call duration, abandoned call rates and customer hold times. Additional information enabled the company to make more informed decisions on staffing as well.
Implementation and maintenance
For manufacturers who have not upgraded their phone systems in some time, implementation of a new system can be a significant undertaking. But it need not be cost prohibitive and can be done incrementally:
- Identify the appropriate platform: Management should evaluate platforms based on a company’s current and future needs. A reputable vendor—one that is supported by more than one vendor—should provide a basic system with limited but useful features such as VoIP.
- Add on new features as needed: As the company and its needs grow, features such as call system routing and reporting can be added. The system can be integrated with other systems (such as CRM) to auto-generate data based on a phone number.
- Update and maintain: Set up a regular schedule to review, maintain and, as necessary, update the system. Maintenance should include keeping the security of the system up to date.
Manufacturers who are not taking full advantage of all their phone systems have to offer risk being overrun by companies that are leveraging their systems to improve customer service, cut costs and enhance operational efficiency.