Key unified communications trends to look out for in 2023
There has been a continued acceleration in South African organisations moving their business systems into the cloud, as they look to benefit from improved efficiency and productivity and tools to establish greater customer intimacy. In the process of moving into the cloud they have been able to harness omni-channel communications and even the broad integration of business systems in order to improve customer experience.
Driven by the need for businesses to have an intelligent business communications platform, trends identified for this year included increased cloud adoption, the breaking down of silos, mobile-first approach, automation, cloud security and more. Many of these trends are set to continue into 2023, gaining further momentum, with a few new trends that will come to the fore as well:
Increased acceleration of cloud adoption
Organisations have for long now known the benefits of shifting their business communications to the cloud as they can benefit from improved efficiency and productivity as well as instant cost savings. Being in the cloud means that employees can work from anywhere on any device and even use multiple communications channels. Further, the use of Open APIs allows them to leverage the heft of global cloud service providers to enable features such as advanced analytics, text transcriptions and more. This is crucial to meet changing buying behaviours from customers. Not to mention not having to worry about purchasing and maintaining on-premise equipment anymore.
While the pandemic-forced lockdowns provided the initial impetus for South African organisations to head to the cloud, those who haven’t will likely be pushed by extended periods of load shedding that we are seeing.
Speeding up of breaking down silos
Many communications systems are still disparate, resulting in a dysfunctional experience for users. Businesses of all sizes are now even looking for a single platform that enables synchronised communications across fixed-line and mobile voice, video and chat – such as what is possible with Telviva One.
The trend of breaking down of silos is crucial as organisations look to provide more personalised customer engagements, and this can be seen with some traditional customer relationship management (CRM) system providers now expanding their offerings to include fully-fledged ERP solutions. This might not work for specialist businesses such as manufacturers, but it can work for general businesses and better managing customer engagements.
Increased reliance on integrated systems
Many organisations in South Africa have adopted UC platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, for their knowledge workers, however most transactional workers still rely on a more basic and cost effective PBX extension. The problem with that configuration is that mostly the two systems do not speak to each other. Organisations that use Microsoft Teams need a way that they get the best of both worlds for internal and external communications.
Telviva can help these organisations by bringing them into SA’s largest cloud free-call community with zero-rated calls to any customer on the Telviva network, including other Telviva connected Microsoft 365 Teams tenants. Desk phones aren’t going away however, it will remain the communications method of choice for transactional workers, such as those in security and access control, retail, hospitality, and other service industries.
Increased reliance on cloud security
With South Africa ranking among the most targeted countries worldwide when it comes to cyber attacks, local organisations have taken multiple measures to beef up security, including using firewalls and antivirus software, setting up content filtering and conducting employee awareness programmes in order to protect themselves.
The trend is for organisations to embrace continuous development – rather than deploying a new app every six months or year apart, they are providing incremental updates that are easy to test and roll out within weeks, helping iron out vulnerabilities in the code. Additionally, the use of code review tools can help monitor applications continually to identify any loopholes that can let attackers in. While it is advances in technology that have created these problems, thankfully technology also provides the solution.
Trends in asynchronous communication
The demand for asynchronous communication is relevant and important. Initially, we had email as a means for interacting with businesses, and it was acceptable to get a reply even a day later. But now customers are looking for a reply within five minutes, whereafter there is a huge drop off in engagement. It’s clear that email doesn’t do the job anymore. This brings in other communication channels, including text-based ones, where the delay between a query and the response are reduced – and this is the journey that many businesses will have to undertake in the coming year.
Increased customer engagements through websites
As the new era of engagement comes fully into effect, the future uses of API integrations in corporate websites are becoming more clear. With digital customer engagements through webchat growing in popularity, organisations are changing the ways in which interactions take place. With the younger generation placing focus on self service and digital interactions, chatbots are set to make a return to form, though they need to be well thought out if organisations are to fully understand where they fit into a holistic strategy of improving customer experiences and communications.
Not all organisations can afford to invest in contact centre-grade omnichannel systems, yet good customer experience should not be something that is limited to large organisations. With tools such as Telviva Engage, businesses of all sizes can get synchronised, multi-channel engagement, including webchat, social media and WhatsApp, fixed and mobile voice and chat.
Currently webchat is purely text based, regardless of whether they are managed by a human agent or done through automation and digital assistants. But, the growing trend is for businesses to add unified communications features to websites, meaning that users will soon be able to request for these interactions to be upgraded to an audio or video call with a customer service agent.
By David Meintjes, CEO at Telviva.