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Productivity ‘hacks’ for business usually rely on decision-makers inspiring new ways of thinking in their staff teams. While the results promise to be impressive, it’s often an idea that’s only really good in theory – since adjusting your whole team’s (and sometimes your customer’s) mindset is a big ask.
In reality, the best productivity ‘hacks’ are those that come through necessity – and, generally speaking, the best way to do that is to encourage the use of new technologies.
While there are plenty of interesting and exciting apps available to help your business get more done – there’s an even more radical way that promises to unlock huge amounts of time for your staff.
The tech in question?
But, if you want to get the most from business phones and your systems, you need to take a fresh look at what the tech can do.
Rethinking the business phone
If you’re sitting at your desk, it’s worth looking at your phone and asking yourself what it can do. The answers are usually short and sharp; it’ll take calls, it’ll transfer calls, and it’ll provide some voicemail and possibly SMS type functions – but, usually, that’s about it.
In truth though, the phones that sit on our desks can carry exactly the same technology that we have on our cell phones. In fact, they can do even more – because they can often build bridges between your customers and your business applications.
Phones becoming input devices
The fact is, a phone provides a world of digital inputs – either through voice or through button presses. So, when you think of a phone as less of a ‘communication device’ and more of an ‘input device’ – you start to see what’s possible. Each of your customers has a device with which they can access parts of your system you open up to them.
Giving your customers a way to access parts of your system might sound a little reckless – but the truth is, it’s nothing more than we do with our business websites currently. If your website can take the order, submit messages, allow stock checks and so forth, then it’s already working with systems behind the scenes. There’s no reason to think that customers can’t have the same access through their cell phones.
The truth is, customers, love this kind of interaction too – because it cuts out the most inefficient part of any system; the humans.
As much as we apparently like “talking to a real person” – it’s generally only the case if something’s going wrong. People can understand the intricate problems that our customers have – whereas an accounting system is likely to only be able to tell a customer whether or not payment has been successful or otherwise. There’s a place for the human touch – but there’s a more prominent place for systems that mean your customers don’t have to waste their time waiting for a human to answer the phone – or try to understand an error that a human has made.
How to next gen systems work?
Talk of ‘next generation’ phone systems is likely to be the kind of thing that business decision-makers will assume comes with a hefty price tag – but in truth, this isn’t the case. In fact, hosted telephone systems are one of the most cost-effective ways you can boost productivity in your business – especially when you consider quite how much you can automate.
The reason for the cost-effectiveness is down to the fact that most businesses have an IT network already in place. Where traditional phone systems have relied on new, dedicated copper wires snaking their way around your building, to and from every desk, hosted phone systems tend to plug into your ethernet infrastructure – and, in many cases, they’ll work wirelessly.
So, hardware aside – what does a ‘hosted’ system offer?
Well, generally, it’ll allow interaction with the applications you already use. So, if a customer currently has to call and speak to someone in accounts to settle an invoice, they’ll now only have to navigate to the correct part of your phone system and they’ll be able to use their card to pay their bill immediately. Then again, if a customer is talking to one of your end-users and you’d normally expect that end-user to annotate the call or recap it on your CRM system post-call, your phone system can also do that – by tying together your CRM with voice-to-text software.
In fact, the possibilities are endless. Hosted voice systems simply remove human interactions wherever it is surplus to requirements. If it can be done with voice or keypresses, then there will almost certainly be an API that can make it happen.
Are humans removed from service?
Of course, all this talk of automation doesn’t mean you should immediately cut all your end-users out of the equation – there’s still very much a place for them in your business – it’s just now they’re able to work to their full potential, rather than simply being automatons that process payments or read FAQ answers to people who are calling with helpdesk queries.
Humans are always the best backup for machines – as we can understand the nuanced human behavior that our customers display – especially when emotions are running high.
What impact does this have on productivity?
So, what do next generation phones do for our businesses?
Used correctly, they can unlock a world of possibilities. Look at your processes – not just the broad strokes – look at every task that someone has to carry out when they take a call. The access records, they access support documents, they record details of the calls, they handle interactions between your customers and other systems.
Now, think about whether or not a customer could do those things themselves. If you’ve got a website, they probably already do – so your phone systems are really just a way of unlocking voice-assistance for your customers. And, with customers being machine supported to carry out the most time-consuming and mundane tasks, you’re likely to unlocked hundreds – if not thousands – of productivity hours for your workforce every month…