UCC Still Requires Another C
Without proper cooperation between departments within a business, Unified Communications and Collaboration cannot work effectively.
Unified Communications and Collaboration will not work as effectively without cooperation. All the technology available today--with rave reviews promising means to boost revenues and pave the way for the enterprise to operate constructively--can easily be derailed by lack of cooperation. In several of my posts over the years, I've lamented about management not providing the breadth of access to customers, suppliers and employees in the UC&C realm to facilitate communication, resolve issues and make improvements up and down the ladder within organizations.
Here's one type of highly-visible example: Call centers and customer service centers that require customer care. I want to share a few recent experiences with you that demonstrate the value of effective UC&C and the essential nature of cooperation.
A few weeks ago, I was attempting to escape the Washington, DC area during an arctic blast of ice and snow. But my flight was cancelled. I received no email notifications about the first cancellation or for the next few flights that would also be cancelled. Subsequently my new flight to just get me into the state of Florida was delayed, and again no email notifications from the airline. Sitting in a long-term parking lot, I took a gamble and got an agent at the airline on the phone. Within 10 minutes she had me on a new flight to a different destination and I eventually arrived with no upcharges or fare changes. That really impressed me because the agent was seemingly empowered to make the change.
SIP Trunk Turbulence
A recent SIP trunk implementation yielded different results. The provider has changed their process to include a "coordinator," and not only did I experience one implementation but two additional cutovers that fared poorly during the process. The network credentials in all three cases contained typos, which means trunks are unable to register, and this means you wind up making a call into the NOC.
Establishing baseline services using test trunks is a great way to deal with potential problems like this, and it really can help prove that the initial configuration was performed properly. However, the holes in this testing strategy emerge when permanent credentials are issued, the test trunks are replaced with new trunks, and permanent service is installed. The trunks are configured as new, and in all three cases, the customer solution was using the same manufacturer, model and software version. Inbound calls worked perfectly, but when users dialed out, they heard no ring-back tone or audio (receive).
The problem was that the NOC needed to change the "profile" in each case, from the test to the live version. However, before the provider would make the changes on their end, we were challenged to prove in several ways that our end was good. After spending more time proving again that the issue was on the NOC's end, we inquired what was being changed and were basically blown off.
With the next implementation, it was the customer's ticket number that solved the problem. The NOC technician said, "There's no way I can talk to the other technician" from the previous case, and we found this disconcerting. Certainly the prior ticket number must have entries in the profile as to what the other technician did to resolve the issue--but again we were blown off.
While all implementation issues were eventually resolved, it took hours in each case, and there were three people engaged unnecessarily when it really should have been resolved in minutes with the provider making a change to the SIP profile.
During the holidays my daughter bought a dress using a gift card, and the dress included a "garment" (or lining) under it. After arriving home she discovered the lining was missing, and, in fact, the attached hooks were also torn. We called the store and provided the SKU numbers and all the information on the tag. The manager of the department assured us that a replacement in the same color and size was waiting for us at the store. Upon arrival, however, this wasn't the case...not even in the ballpark. I also noticed that the checkout process (point of sale) included the use of iPhones, and I couldn't help but wonder whether, if we had sent a photo we could have saved a trip altogether.
Online Banking Blunder
I had an online banking experience once that is worth bringing up. I was required to submit an online tuition payment, and even though I had issued the payment weeks in advance, it wound up being very much late (fortunately without penalty). Calling the online banking group and using the messaging feature failed miserably. One of the representatives stated the check was mailed from a processing center in Delaware--another said Arizona, but the check was actually mailed from North Carolina. So why did it arrive late?
The next issue came after the check arrived: I used the bank's online messaging system to reply back and notify the bank that the check had arrived. Several days later I received an email stating that I had a new message on the online account. The bank wanted to know if I needed the lost check cancelled. I replied no and that it had been received. Fortunately, someone at the bank then called to verify the check did indeed arrive.
A Case for UC&C
These experiences vary in nature, but they all involve key processes. Those processes are neither right nor wrong, but they are seemingly misaligned with UC&C. There are elements that do not consider cooperation, and some may be because of security reasons.
UC&C provides presence, but so what? Everyone can be seen but not everyone is heard or wants to be heard, and there remains a greater need to educate and then align efforts to improve processes. More importantly, when organizations appear to be working on separate teams and not holistically as one company, they come across as working against each other.
An extreme example of this is our political system; do the parties appear to cooperate? Remember what President Kennedy said, "Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past--let us accept our own responsibility for the future."
The user or customer experience is always impacted by process, and when the process becomes repetitive or redundant, wasting time and resources, then you can gauge the descent that customers or users have into the unhappy and angry zone for having received poor service.
The other concern is the meshing of the technologies--UC&C, email, Web portals, social media and BYOD devices--to align what should be united. When these tools don't harmonize, you can expect more of the same--customers remembering their unhappy experiences and anger over what they perceive as companies that just can't get their act together.
Collaboration simply doesn't fare well without cooperation, and the spirit of cooperation seems to be missing in many businesses and organizations. Just pick up the phone or click on your device, and call into a contact center or customer service number. Or if you want the possible extreme, call into a government agency or tech support number and see if you get the same answers after making three calls for the same question.