How Forerunner Technologies has Tackled Customer Issues using UNIVERGE BLUE

NEC UNIVERGE BLUE Channel Partner Forerunner Technologies weighs in on the value of using UNIVERGE BLUE to help customers transition to a modern workplace.

The partnership between Forerunner Technologies and NEC dates back many years, but it has taken on a new dynamic in recent times. NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE offers Forerunner Technologies a powerful solution for its clients as they navigate the challenges of a rapidly evolving business environment.

UNIVERGE BLUE is an easy-to-use, cloud-based communications platform that helps businesses manage communications and collaboration between employees. For Forerunner Technologies, the UNIVERGE BLUE platform creates a number of promising opportunities, allowing communications consultants to offer robust solutions to some of their customers’ biggest challenges.

The move to a hybrid workplace

With COVID-19 disrupting the corporate world, many companies were forced to adopt a hybrid workplace. Instead of every employee working on-premises, people were suddenly splitting time between working from home and being in the office. Thanks to UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT, Forerunner Technologies was able to provide a solution for all its customers struggling with this new way of working. It allowed them to retain seamless communication and connectivity throughout their enterprises without letting the transition disrupt productivity.

As the restrictions have eased off, Forerunner Technologies identified that there is still an appetite for hybrid working in the modern world. A lot of their customers are keen to hire talent that either works remotely or semi-remotely. UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT provides the perfect platform to make this easier than ever.

Letting workers adopt their preferred technologies

The new generation of workers has specific demands when it comes to the technologies they want to use at work. Some of them want to use their mobile device to work, others a tablet, and some still prefer their laptop. Thanks to UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT, Forerunner has been able to provide a platform that lets its customers’ employees adopt their preferred technologies.

Individuals are now able to work in a way that suits them the best. As a result, this translates into more productivity for companies. According to UC Today, 75% of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) users experienced heightened productivity. There’s no doubt in the mind of Forerunner Technologies that this is thanks to the flexibility that a system like UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT provides.

LECs are no longer mandated to maintain copper services

The local exchange carriers (LECs) are no longer mandated by the FCC to maintain copper services. This has caused a huge disruption! Forerunner Technologies has seen many of its customers receive short notice periods from LECs stating that certain services will be terminated. Likewise, many service providers have hiked up the prices of legacy telephone lines to egregious amounts. As a result, the only solution is to switch these services to hosted solutions. More decision-makers at top companies are looking for platforms like UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT to help them navigate this transition.

UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT has allowed Forerunner to provide monthly subscription packages that help clients gain control of their bills and clearly understand how much everything costs. When Forerunner can save money providing this service, it will ultimately mean that the service can be sold to customers at a more affordable price point.

Overall, Forerunner has seen savings between 15-35% for most customers. UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT has also given them an easy way to allow customers to pay for what they need.

Forerunner Technologies is thrilled with its partnership with NEC. This cloud-based system has transformed the services it can provide for customers as a premier national communications consultant for enterprises and SMBs. In a world driven by the concept of hybrid working, UNIVERGE BLUE Cloud Services is allowing Forerunner to give customers a steppingstone toward a cloud-based work environment. This helps customers offer better working environments for employees, catering to their specific needs. It opens up the talent pool and lets them grow as companies.

UNIVERGE BLUE offers a product that delivers a better all-around experience for everyone. Customers enjoy monthly savings while also receiving a better way of communicating and staying connected.

For more information on NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE and its capabilities for your business, visit the UNIVERGE BLUE website.

10 Strategic Smart Enterprise Drivers for 2023

Businesses are currently weighing the impact of rapidly changing economic conditions, as well as disruptions in supply chains, and energy sourcing. Digital Transformation is recreating business models, changing the way customers and employees interact and altering entire industries. Making sense of such disruptive changes has never been so important in order to transform smartly instead of being left behind.

As an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) leader with over 120 years of expertise and experience, NEC is sharing its views on leading and emerging trends and technologies to help your Smart Enterprise anchor its strategic investments. Explore NEC’s Top 10 Strategic Drivers and discover how to navigate through the developments to simplify your organization, realize workforce efficiencies, deliver superior customer services, and gain a competitive advantage.

Digital Transformation
Digital Transformation is key for enterprises to enrich their operations with innovative solutions that optimize business practices, drive workforce engagement, and create a competitive edge. Digital adoption and automation are key to operational excellence and indispensable for organizations to survive. Equipment, functions and processes becoming more and more software driven, makes them more responsive to changing requirements.

Ubiquitous Connectedness
Organizations are capitalizing on mobility solutions that enable employees to work from just about anywhere, at any given time, whether on-site, at home, between appointments, or while traveling. Technology ensures they remain fully integrated with their organizations, colleagues and customers. Work/life balance is enriched by the power of the smart-phone, serving both business and private communications.

Smart, Collaborative Workspaces
The traditional office is shrinking and working from home is fully accepted. With hybrid work being the new normal workstyle, tools that support a flexible, open and agile way of working, like Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C), are a mandatory part of running a successful business. Remote workers need to feel engaged and included in company culture. At the same time, Smart enterprises must adopt workplace management solutions that create environments for maximizing not only employee productivity and well-being, but also workplace safety and efficiency as some workers return to the office. Automated reservation and touchless check-in allow both workers and visitors to quickly and safely use office space as often as needed.

Driving Engagement
Companies are pushing hard to deliver connected Customer Experiences (CX) across media, channels, processes, and departments – making contact easy and pleasant, lowering thresholds, presenting options most relevant to the customer, and ensuring swift response to queries. Smart enterprises reinvent their customer engagement models to deliver customers a distinctive, personalized experience and ensure a long-lasting relationship.

The Return Of Cost Consciousness
Until recently businesses were predominantly focused on post-pandemic growth. Now, cost reduction and optimization will play a more prominent role in decision making in 2023. Rising interest rates and volatile labor, materials, and energy prices are forcing enterprises to revisit their balance sheets and cut costs by optimizing out of pocket spendings such as IT infrastructure and office space. Businesses that adopt pay-per-use and flexible models will be able to reduce upfront costs and pay only for what is currently needed, while also giving themselves the flexibility for future expansion. Customers will benefit from easier financial management and predictable overall monthly costs. Smart enterprises will embrace the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of month-to-month contracts with the flexibility to scale up or down as needed.

Cloud-Centric Optimization
Cloud computing has revolutionized IT and software delivery. Applications running in the cloud make it incredibly easy for users to signup, access, and draw on solutions available on demand and within minutes. Cloud-based deployments consequently adopt new functionality much faster and more easily than their on-premises counterparts, with new applications driving rapid innovation.

Securing The Data-Driven Enterprise
The power of capturing, processing, and analyzing data offers tremendous opportunities to drive better business intelligence, product development, and customer service. Real-time business processes and workflows also require swift retrieval of data at the moment of need. As data sets grow, storage solutions need to become more flexible and scalable as organizations find it increasingly complex to store, protect, and manage all collected information.

Business Resilience And Continuity
Today’s enterprises depend on reliable access to applications, information, and people to persistently operate smartly and compete effectively. This requires a robust communications and IT infrastructure capable of providing always-on availability that can also self-heal should potential service disruptions occur. Navigating these disruptions calls for a more holistic and proactive strategy with respect to sourcing and securing resources across a variety of key areas.

Extended Reality
Analytics tools have historically been focused on descriptive outcomes, but now their applications are shifting towards predicting future events and behavior and recommending how to react to outcomes. In 2023, AI tools will become widely available through cloud platforms and open-source software. Businesses will ramp up their usage to streamline efficiency for the organization and achieve new levels of engagement, drawing on elements such as emotion recognition and behavior analysis.

Smart, Sustainable Society
Important steps are being made towards building smarter societies – where information and communications technologies ensure energy efficiency, sustainable economic development, safety and security, along with wise management of natural resources. Connected processes and collaboration will save time and reduce costs, scope, and impact of physical travel and transportation. Digital technologies will support the incorporation of circular economy principles into businesses and society, facilitating the redesign of products and value chains.

By embracing Digital Transformation and enabling advanced approaches to how Communications and IT services are delivered and managed, NEC provides new ways for Smart Enterprises to thrive and grow.

To learn more, visit https://www.necam.com/.

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How the Hybrid Workforce Has Brought Cloud-Based Phone Systems to the Forefront of Business

Cloud-based phone systems have exponentially grown in popularity over the past few years. Improved ROI, decreased cost, and easy scalability are just a few of the many benefits they offer.

With the recent increase in work-from-home employees, cloud-based business phone systems are now an indispensable part of the hybrid workforce.

Workers can utilize the same phone system tools as their office counterparts, no matter where they are physically located—through their laptop, IP phone, tablet, or cell phone.

Are you like many of our customers and wonder, what is a cloud-based phone system? Read on to learn more about how the hybrid workforce has affected cloud-based phone systems and the value you’ll get from installing one.

What are Cloud-Based Phone Systems?

Traditional phone systems (PBX) require expensive on-site servers and annual software subscriptions. When something goes wrong, it becomes a 911 rush to find a qualified technician to come out and fix the problem.

Cloud-based phone systems, such as UNIVERGE BLUE from NEC, offer a fully-featured phone system with high-definition (HD) audio and a wide range of features, such as:

  • Call Park
  • Call Forwarding
  • Find Me/Follow Me
  • Hold Recordings or Music
  • Conferencing
  • Messaging Applications

The cloud-based phone system provider handles the server and software maintenance. This helps eliminate the huge monthly expense of on-premises servers and software licenses as well as helps reduce on-site maintenance and management labor costs.

We have found that our customers can save an average of 15-25% over the life of the phone system when making the switch from an on-premises system to a cloud-based system.

Benefits of Cloud-Based Phone System

Cloud-based phone systems offer a wide range of benefits, such as:

  1. Reliability—cloud-based phone systems offer a 99.999% uptime backed up by a Service Level Agreement.
  2. They’re easy to scale without a huge investment. When you need to add new lines, simply call the company hosting your system and inform them. They’ll make the changes on their end without any effort on your part.
  3. Reduced hardware and labor costs—you don’t need an on-site control box, and all maintenance is done in the cloud. This means that your equipment is continually updated with the latest security patches/etc. When updates are available, the phone will let you know, and updating is as simple as clicking a button on your phone.
  4. Easier to connect with customers—you can place phone calls and send text messages that appear to come from the company regardless of if the app is installed on an employee’s personal cell phone.
  5. Some systems, such as UNIVERGE BLUE, come with a transcription feature. If someone misses a phone call, they can look at their email and see who left the voicemail, along with a transcript of what they said.
  6. A cloud-based phone system is much more secure than a premises system. For example, an old premises-based phone system can be hacked—attackers will randomly call and recognize the voicemail prompt, and from there, they can tell what system it is.

The hacker can then enter the user’s system, start making international calls, and racking up substantial long-distance bills. With the cloud, that’s eliminated because everything is encrypted, and NEC and their security specialists handle all the security stuff.

Cloud-Based Phone Systems Have Evolved Due to the Hybrid Workforce

According to many sources, the hybrid workforce is not only here to stay—workers and job applicants will start actively seeking companies that offer it. Cloud-based companies have seen the increased demand and are now offering a wide range of additional features and benefits such as:

  1. The ability to connect to the cloud from any internet-connected device. If you’re working in the office in the morning and pack up to go home after lunch—you won’t have to bring any additional equipment to work from home or in the field. When using a cloud-based phone system, you won’t have any concerns on having to take work equipment with you to stay connected.
  2. You can also work from a cell phone signal instead of a traditional home or office internet connection. Workers will still have access to the cloud-based phone system when power outages occur, provided they can receive a cell phone signal.
  3. With UNIVERGE BLUE, employees have a choice when using their personal cell phone. They can choose to take and make calls from the mobile client where the caller ID shows up as coming from the company or they can call directly from their cell phone where their personal caller ID is displayed to the person on the other end. System administration is super easy with the cloud-based phone system’s web-based portal.
  4. Many applications have also been developed to help people in the hybrid work environment. These include messaging, productivity, and collaboration tools such as call flip, SMS text, file sharing, team chat, and web meeting.

Is a Cloud-Based Phone System Right for You?

The value and benefits offered by cloud-based phone systems have far-surpassed traditional PBX on-premises phone systems. You and your employees will experience increased productivity, flexibility, and productivity, while employers will save money by being able to effortlessly scale up or down as needed.

UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT is an easy-to-use cloud-based communications platform that helps employees to be more productive and collaborative. It includes a full-featured phone system combined with chat, web/video conferencing, basic contact center functionality, and file sync, share, and backup capabilities.

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How Self-Service is Elevating Customer Experience

For decades, customer service and support operations have held an important role in the way organizations operated their businesses. However, this labor driven operation was looked upon as an expense—just a cost of doing business. Organizations often sought ways to lower customer service / support costs by moving this function offshore or outsourcing, limiting ways customers could communicate with them and thus reducing contact center budgets or deploying technology to deflect and/or eliminate in some cases, the “human” contact.

The attitude that customer service / support is an expense began to change as companies put more focus on the actual customer experience and realized that there were opportunities being overlooked. According to research by Deloitte Digital, customer service interactions—especially those with human interaction—are the ones that were “most likely to build or break customer trust and loyalty.”1

BizReport recently reported that customer service and customer experience are now closely linked, which affects the way consumers regard a company brand. Among the findings reported, 73% of consumers want the ability to solve product and service issues on their own. For millennials, customer service expectations have increased since 2012 with 56% indicating that they’ll switch brands if they experience poor customer service.2

Benefits of Self Service

A trend toward self-service by consumers has also emerged and likely will continue to rise. More and more consumers purchase products online and experience delivery methods such as curbside pickup and at-home deliveries. These “touchless” ways of shopping often result in customers increasingly reaching out to businesses through email or phone with questions and requests for assistance. Providing additional options for self-service can improve the customer experience and cut down on frustration, long wait times and inability to reach a business after hours.

Looking a little deeper, it’s apparent that consumers increasingly want to troubleshoot problems on their own rather than waiting to interact with companies online or by phone. Often companies will become too preoccupied in handling common questions from consumers—What are your business hours? When is my next appointment? Did my direct deposit process? How do I drive to your location? — which can negatively impact customer service overall.

To jumpstart self-service options, businesses can provide access to information via intuitive website design and automation, knowledge bases, Interactive Virtual Agent (IVA) chatbots and back-office integrated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to their customers. For example, an IVR can be an option for handling common mundane inquiries. Doing so enables organizations to better manage their contact center agents’ time to more effectively manage incoming calls that directly affect the bottom line. Seamlessly resolving issues through the most-efficient channels equals a better customer experience, more customer loyalty and ultimately more revenue for the company.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, one of NEC’s customers was inundated with frequent calls related to common questions like those mentioned above. The company leveraged IVR to support customers who called after business hours, allowing them to press “2” and the company would text a link to their business hour webpage automatically. After implementing self-service, our customer deflected more than 800,000 calls.

A Solution for Customer Self-Service

NEC UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is an automated telephony system that interacts with callers, back-end data sources, gathers information and routes calls to the appropriate representative, with insights to that specific customer. When customers have straight-forward questions (checking an account balance or paying a bill), the IVR enables self-serve for customers without using up the time of a live agent. When a customer’s problem extends beyond the dynamic menu, the IVR system quickly leads the caller to the most relevant agent available.

When implemented and configured correctly, IVRs can help boost sales and reduce churn. IVRs can increase customer satisfaction by enabling customer interactions to be handled and routed quickly and efficiently and reported upon afterwards.

IVR gives customers options on how to be assisted and leads them to the right information or agent for more personalized service. It also provides access during off-hours to information such as account balances.

UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE IVR makes configuration and deployment extremely simple, including adding prompts, such as:

  • Initial Greeting/Welcome
  • Language Preferences
  • Authentication
  • Tailored Self-Service Menu that offers informational prompts providing answers to common questions
  • Access to the customer’s own personal account data
  • Choices for accomplishing tasks such as making or canceling an appointment, placing an order, accessing their account or speaking to someone in customer service or a particular department

Easy IVR

ENGAGE has a user-friendly intuitive wizard to streamline the set-up, for common IVR needs. Referred to as Easy-IVR, companies can quickly configure and build a simple step-by-step customized IVR that drive business and improve customer experience. Now, in as little as five minutes, non-programmers can either build an IVR or enhance an existing one quickly and easily.

IVR Studio

ENGAGE offers a Development Studio for creating robust self-service / self-help and to integrate to external applications and data sources. Referred to as the IVR Studio, this component of the Admin Portal is leveraged by trained/certified users (partners and/or end user customers).

UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE is a cloud-based contact center solution that is fully equipped with Interactive Voice Response to improve the customer experience with seamless self-serve and customized service options.

Discover more and schedule a demo.

Sources:

  1. Elevating Customer Service: From Cost Center to Experience Hub,” Deloitte Digital
  2. Report: Poor customer service pushes consumers away,” BizReport

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Missed Appointments = Missed Revenue

How to improve customer ‘show rates’

When customers miss appointments, it can be annoying and inconvenient. But those “no shows” also can end up costing your company in other ways.

No shows can have a negative impact on revenue by:

  • Using up employee availability – Staff must work around a missed appointment and divert resources to maintain high levels of service for other customers.
  • Increasing employee costs – Businesses that require employees to travel onsite (appliance delivery, HVAC, real estate) incur additional costs such as gas, wear and tear on vehicles and hourly employee rates.
  • Slowing response time – Inability to provide prompt service could mean losing one-on-one time to nurture customer relationships, as well as lost sales opportunities.
  • Affecting professionalism and reputation – Last-minute cancelations can really mess up a day’s schedule, which in turn makes an organization look less professional or inefficient. The other “waiting” customers feel frustrated about wasted time. Even worse, customers unable to schedule an appointment or who have a bad customer experience because of a full schedule may turn to a competitor and never return.
  • Harming staff productivity – Staff that is frustrated from having to constantly juggle resources and reschedule appointments may become less engaged and not as productive in the long run.

Consider a healthcare organization. A recent study found that even a small number of no shows can significantly affect patient retention rates.1 Someone who has missed an appointment is less likely to reschedule another one later.

Here’s another way to calculate the potential revenue loss from a missed appointment. Consider that one “no show” per day costs your business $200. If you are not able to backfill that missed appointment, that $200 is lost forever. If you are unable to reschedule that no-show appointment to a new time, that’s another $200 in potential future revenue.

A Fix for the No-show Problem

Addressing the no-show problem head-on helps reduce the chance of occurrences before they happen. Dynamic notifications provide a solution that combines phone, email and SMS to maximize an organization’s potential revenue and ensure a customer or patient experience that generates future referrals.

NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE Dynamic Notifications solution has several advantages:

  • Incorporates a cadence that includes interval, messaging frequency and message content and leverages phone, email and SMS
  • Provides customers or patients with an option to easily “confirm” or “cancel” an appointment
  • If “cancel” is the response, redirects the customer to an agent to reschedule right then and prevent future revenue loss
  • Enables backfilling canceled appointments to maintain or increase revenue
  • Reduces downtime and costs associated with idle staff

The reminder capabilities enable an organization to send outbound voice, SMS or email notifications set to customers’ preferred method of communication, adding to their convenience and satisfaction.

Also, businesses that use UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE Dynamic Notifications are able to offload routine or trivial tasks from their staff. This enables them to reduce cost per outbound call (no staff involved), increase staff productivity, enhance scheduling efficiency and maximize revenue opportunities.

Flexible Industry-related Options

Deploying dynamic notifications not only benefits health organizations and service call companies, but can also be effectively used in a variety of other industries.

  • Retailers alert customers of deliveries, surveys, promotions and collections.
  • A real estate agent can let potential buyers know about open houses and visits.
  • Hospitality businesses remind guests about travel dates, reservations, orders or delays.
  • Banks provide account balances and payment reminders.
  • Utilities communicate with customers about installations in their neighborhood, outages, emergency and weather alerts.
  • Small and medium businesses send promotional offers, upsell new products or launch marketing campaigns.
  • Transportation services provide pick-up reminders and offer scheduling options.

The ENGAGE Dynamic Notifications setup is simple, data-driven and contains customizable options:

  • Phrase Manager, with a buildable library of message templates
  • Highly scalable to fit the size of any organization
  • Tightly integrates with ENGAGE Contact Center features
  • Reports campaign status through a Live Dashboard
  • Provides reports on completed calls
  • Incorporates Text-to-Speech voice notifications in multiple voice options and dialects

UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE is a cloud-based contact center solution that is fully equipped with Dynamic Notifications to help improve no-show rates and potentially increase revenue. Regardless of company size or industry, it is flexible enough to help you reduce those pesky no shows.

Discover more and schedule a demo.

Source:

  1. No-show effect: Even one missed appointment risks retention,” Athena Health

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