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How VoIP Makes Service Operations More Efficient
October 4th, 2017

How VoIP Makes Service Operations More Efficient

Ian Linton

Businesses need to maintain contact with employees who are mobile. VoIP helps them do this by making service operations more efficient.

Service firms provide a range of professional services to businesses, including maintenance, technical support, and managed services. These firms also provide skilled personnel to take on roles within customers’ businesses, supplementing or replacing internal staff.

Successful service firms rely on effective communications to respond to customers, meet service level agreements (SLAs) and manage their workforce efficiently. They need to maintain contact with employees who are mobile for the majority of their time so that they can deploy the right resources and control service operations. VoIP help them do this by making service operations more efficient.

Importance of communications

Cloud-based VoIP services play an important role in maintaining contact, responsiveness, and efficiency at every stage of service operations. VoIP contact center solutions integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) systems help customer service and help desk staff handle inquiries and service requests quickly and efficiently.

The cloud-based communications solution means that employees working in the field can maintain contact at all times and access a full range of communications and collaboration tools on their smartphones.

VoIP’s integration with workforce management, reporting, and dispatch tools makes it easy to make communications an integral part of workflow processes. The Internet of Things (IoT) is adding a new dimension to service operations by providing vast amounts of performance data that enables teams to respond quickly and proactively to service issues. Integrating IoT with VoIP can give service firms a strong competitive advantage.

Responding to service requests

Customer service agents are on the front line in service operations. They handle incoming inquiries and service requests and work closely with dispatch and workforce management teams to ensure customers receive a rapid response from an employee with the right skills.

VoIP’s contact center solution supports multi-channel communications, allowing customers to place their requests by the channel of their choice. Agents can handle requests by voice, instant message, text, email or fax on the same interface.

To minimize queuing delays, VoIP incorporates sophisticated call routing features that allow call centers to distribute incoming calls by business rules covering factors such as skill set, incident severity, location or customer priority.

Agents can quickly and easily transfer or escalate calls, if necessary, using VoIP’s Presence feature to check the availability of a colleague. VoIP solutions automatically record all incoming calls so that agents can check details and archive call records for compliance, SLA management or case management. The system also records all incoming emails, messages and voicemails for review, retrieval and compliance in a single inbox.

Allocating resources

VoIP integrates with workforce management and dispatch systems, making it easy for contact center agents to alert engineers, technicians and support staff to customers’ requirements.

Agents can forward call recordings, voicemails and other messages as attachments to team managers or direct to field staff so they can access details of the customer request.

Managers and supervisors can use the call information to allocate the right skills and resources to the job, using business rules and location information. Integration with CRM systems gives team members up-to-date information on customers’ service records, outstanding issues, and other essential information.

VoIP gives supervisors and managers a range of tools to communicate with field staff. They can exchange updates, request spares or specialist support, and report job completion so that managers can allocate new jobs. Field staff can also provide supervisors with their availability by setting their current status on VoIP’s Presence feature.

Help desk support

Service firms can support their customers with help desk facilities or remote monitoring and response from an operations center. Communications are critical here too. VoIP integrates with help desk systems and knowledge bases to help agents provide fast, accurate responses and achieve a resolution.

Skills-based routing ensures an agent with the right skills answers each call. VoIP’s help desk solutions include video and web conferencing facilities, allowing agents to collaborate with customers and view problems first hand. This feature can speed up fault diagnosis and resolution.

VoIP’s call recording and analytics programs can help supervisors and managers monitor performance and identify trends that might require remedial action. For example, a large number of service requests for the same problem may indicate a faulty production batch or highlight a problem that could be solved by customer training.

Customer site help desks

Service firms may provide customers with help desks on their own sites. They can use VoIP’s hosted call center solution to deliver a complete set of help desk facilities with no physical infrastructure and no capital investment.

Using SIP trunking, service firms can link the customer site with the central help desk to monitor performance, report on usage and provide additional resources if necessary. The remote help desk team can also access central knowledge bases and CRM systems for additional support.

Customers benefit from access to dedicated help desks manned by specialists. Their employees will enjoy fast response with none of the delays associated with a large central help desk. The service firm can roll out a series of customer facilities while maintaining overall control of quality and performance.

Service records

Customers measure the performance of their service suppliers against service level agreements. SLAs specify factors such as time to respond to requests, time to fix problems and the number of first-time resolutions. They may also specify more granular details such as call handling, call waiting and call-back times.

VoIP can provide important data for SLA management. Call logs and call center analytics provide accurate data on call waiting and call handling performance. Call recordings and message records provide an audit trail of customers’ instructions and the firm’s responses.

The information is valuable to managers and supervisors, giving them tools to measure the efficiency and productivity of their operations. Supervisors can track the progress of incidents and highlight any bottlenecks or other problems that slow down case resolution. The information also forms part of case records that are held on CRM systems.

Operations centers

Service firms that monitor and manage large customer systems and installations set up operations centers. Here, teams monitor systems to identify problems and fix them remotely. They also monitor performance trends to identify potential risks and deal with them proactively.

VoIP helps operations center teams communicate effectively with customers and colleagues. Team members can collaborate easily by audio or video conference with colleagues in the center or experts in other parts of the organization. Using VoIP’s video conferencing and screen sharing facilities, they can review images from the customer site or screenshots from the operations center.

If they have to carry out scheduled or emergency maintenance, team members can alert customers with instant messages or emails to make them aware of the work and give an indication of timescales.

Integrating IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) gives service firms the ability to monitor equipment and systems remotely. Sensors attached to the equipment transmit data that operations centers can analyze to identify current or potential problems.

Remote monitoring reduces labor costs and provides earlier alerts, helping firms meet their SLAs. Combining IoT with VoIP communications lets the operations center share incoming data with field engineers and customers so that problems can be resolved quickly. Integrating IoT with VoIP messaging can automate the alert process, improving responsiveness even further.

Automating communications

An efficient information flow is important to service firms. Teams need to keep customers, engineers and managers informed of progress on alerts and maintenance. VoIP can help improve the information flow with automated processes that reduce costs and improve productivity.

Customized apps that integrate VoIP with CRM systems, fault alert, and dispatch systems can be used to notify other parties by instant message, text or email. Automated notifications keep customers informed on progress with initial acknowledgments of a service request or fault notification, followed by updates on the dispatch and estimated arrival time of an engineer, and finally, confirmation that the problem has been fixed.

If a problem occurs, such as a security issue service firms can use broadcast notifications to alert customers automatically.

The same notifications help supervisors or account managers monitor progress and intervene if necessary.

Automated notifications to engineers provide details of customer location and service information, in addition to links to knowledge base sources, or contact details of experts who can provide additional support.

Supporting mobile staff

Engineers and technicians working in the field or on customer sites are a key part of the service organization. To operate efficiently and productively, they need consistent access to communications and data wherever they are working.

VoIP services are available on smartphones and mobile devices using a softphone app and high-speed Internet connection. VoIP’s global reach means that engineers can use these services, even in remote locations, provided they can access the Internet.

Engineers use their mobile devices to receive notifications and transmit updates, requests for spares or confirmation of completion. They can use VoIP’s data capability to access knowledge bases or other online resources. This helps them deal with service issues in real time.

Field workers can set up video or web conferences with specialists or suppliers if they need help resolving difficult problems. Using VoIP’s mobile video capability, they can share images to give colleagues a clearer idea of the problem.

Engineers can use VoIP’s integration with calendar apps like Microsoft Outlook to review or update work schedules. Using messaging features, they can advise supervisors of changes to schedules caused by travel delays or problems on-site. They can also use VoIP’s Presence feature to update their statuses when they are available or unavailable.

Scaling operations

VoIP’s scalability can help service firms if work volumes increase, business grows, or they need to duplicate communications resources. They may have to bring in additional resources to handle large-scale problems caused by a product recall, for example. Or they may want to set up a satellite help desk in another location close to customers.

Cloud-based VoIP services allow for expansion or duplication of facilities without installation of new physical lines or other resources. That allows service firms to scale their operations quickly and cost-effectively to maintain service levels without investing in over-provisioning.

Driving service success

VoIP plays an important role in maintaining efficiency and productivity in service operations. It helps service firms provide responsive service to customers and meet SLAs. While improving the performance of field teams.

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