Choosing the Best-Fit Unified Communications Partner: 5 Must-Have Characteristics

Are you ready to support a hybrid workforce?

Google and Economist Impact recently completed a survey which says 75 percent of respondents believe hybrid/flexible work will be standard practice within their organizations in the coming three years.1

Working with remote teams and allowing for flexible schedules requires robust communication and collaboration tools. In addition to reliable, instantaneous conversations and multichannel messaging, asynchronous features will be critical to successful information exchanges.

Unified communications (UC) technologies are essential to support ongoing digital transformation. To maintain productivity, creativity and team engagement, as well as exceptional customer experience, it’s important to partner with the right UC vendor to support your business goals.

Discover how UNIVERGE BLUE® can reimagine your business through hybrid working.

Here are five must-have characteristics of the best-fit UC partner:

1. All-Inclusive – Look for a partner who can provide your complete cloud communications needs — including voice, chat, video conferencing, file sharing, multi-channel contact center, data management, backup and security solutions.

Fifty percent of businesses that have consolidated their applications reported an improved ability to keep up with customer expectations, according to Forrester.2

Bundled UC solutions offer cost savings and the simplicity of one bill. You get the convenience of going to one place for customer support, while minimizing the need to toggle between applications.

NEC’s newly integrated UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT & ENGAGE combines Contact Center (CCaaS) with Unified Communications as a service (UCaaS) to make employee collaboration easier and customer communications smoother. Business communications are simplified and teamwork is improved since the one-stop shop approach reduces complexity and costs. Plus, user experience and customer experience (CX) are upgraded because the platform is accessible on a single pane of glass.

By consolidating your employee collaboration and customer experience solutions, you receive:

  • Faster Service Speed – Advanced call management tools unified within ENGAGE enables users to resolve customer inquiries faster
  • Better Productivity – Employees seamlessly work as a team to help each other or a customer
  • Better Service Quality – Supervisors have improved visibility into their customer experience and customer-facing users have better access to other employees
  • Flexibility – Streamline onboarding and give any user immediate access to help manage customer calls instantly
  • Adoption Rate – Users learn 2x faster due to the intuitive user interface and having only one application to operate

2. Flexible – Organizations must become more agile and responsive to ever-changing working conditions, whether remote, in office or on the go.

Mobile and desktop applications need to be available for anywhere, anytime connectivity.

NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE EXTEND connects powerful voice, team chat, video conferencing and contact center functionalities into everyday business applications. Benefits include higher productivity, better customer retention and increased insight all-in-one tool.

Some vendors require your business to move the entire communications infrastructure to their cloud platform. NEC offers flexible deployment models that satisfy any business infrastructure whether on-premises, hybrid or cloud.

For current NEC customers, our UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE extends your existing investment, while gaining all the tools and features of cloud that benefit your hybrid/remote workers. We won’t force you to move to the cloud.

3. CX-Centered – Choose a UC partner dedicated to you and your customers.

Make certain the UC solutions are not only advanced and full featured, but also focused on a user-friendly experience.

NEC promotes a flourishing channel partner network for local, dedicated support. While there are many unified communications options in the marketplace today, not all technology providers will offer an extra layer of local support through a channel partner program.

Using UNIVERGE BLUE EXTEND, you can provide your customers with voice, chat, video conferencing and contact center solutions integrated with popular business applications like Google®, Microsoft®, Salesforce® and more. You can improve customer service and increase insights to better meet your customers’ needs.

4. Reliable – Make certain your partner has the expertise and track record of success to support your evolving UC requirements.

NEC has been a leading provider and integrator of advanced IT, communications and networking solutions for 120+ years with more than 80 million users worldwide.

We maintain the highest compliance standards for healthcare organizations with contact center tools across communications and payment processes.

UNIVERGE BLUE is purpose-built for reliability—extending peace of mind. To help you avoid the risks of downtime or unreliable communications tools, we offer:

  • A 99.999% financially-backed uptime SLA (service level agreement)
  • VoIP tests to help ensure a reliable connection and high voice quality
  • Redundant East/West data centers to increase reliability and reduce latency

5. Forward-thinking Partner – Work with a partner investing in emerging technologies and committed to giving you a competitive advantage.

As business environments continue to shift and evolve, employee and customer expectations do, too. You need a UC partner who is regularly upgrading platforms for your organization and customers’ requirements.

UNIVERGE BLUE delivers tomorrow’s smart workspace today. We are continuously innovating and partnering with industry pioneers to stay ahead of the curve. By integrating with other leading business applications, UNIVERGE BLUE streamlines your operations, enhances user-experience, and makes seamless communication a reality across your entire organization.

Our analytics and reporting capabilities include hundreds of reports at your fingertips. Be at the forefront of fast-changing circumstances. Get access to vital communications and contact center metrics, business data and other key performance indicators (KPIs) to make informed decisions.

Choosing a UC partner with these five essential characteristics will support you in gaining opportunities—and making the leap into a hybrid world.

Learn how UNIVERGE BLUE can help improve communications and transform your hybrid work model.

Sources:

  1. Insights from our global hybrid work survey,” Google Workspace
  2. Improve Business Agility Through Platform Consolidation,” Forrester Consulting

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10 STRATEGIC DRIVERS THAT WILL RESHAPE BUSINESS IN 2022

Digital Transformation is redefining business models and changing the way customers and employees function, altering entire industries. Social and business values surge when people, devices, and resources are connected. The pandemic has been a tremendous catalyst for organizations worldwide to embrace digital transformation in support of business continuity, dynamic service delivery, and realizing the new normal of hybrid working.

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 navigate through these changes to simplify your organization, realize workforce efficiencies, and gain competitive advantages.

In this blog, we will explore the Top 10 Strategic Drivers that NEC distinguishes will shape an organization’s operations the coming year and beyond:

Digital Transformation

The integration of new technologies is changing the business world and has altered not only how businesses are seen, but also how they operate and deliver value to customers. It’s also a cultural change that requires flexibility and creativity in revisiting business models and operational processes.

Digital Transformation is key for enterprises to enrich their operations in 2022 with innovative solutions and technologies like cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, mobile internet, artificial intelligence, voice recognition, and application convergence. In doing so, they recreate their business model, enhance customer and employee experiences, and realize the always-on enterprise.

Connectedness

Making staff omnipresent and ‘always on’ is key for smart enterprises to operate efficiently and effectively in today’s business environments. Successful organizations are capitalizing on mobility solutions to enable employees to get work done no matter their location.

Mobile technologies extend communications, data, and business applications to mobile devices, ensuring employees remain fully integrated with their organizations, colleagues, and customers.

5G and LTE connectivity will transform laptops into ACPCs (Always Connected PCs) to ensure tasks can be performed anywhere on the go. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 technology will drive factors in wireless growth, bringing increased bandwidth and higher internet speeds along with more reliable networks.

Collaborative Workspace

The global pandemic has made companies rethink their workspaces and in 2022, we will see more investment in technology that allows distributed workgroups to communicate and collaborate easily, regardless of location.

Hybrid work has become the preferred model and makes tools that support a more flexible, open, and agile way of working, like Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C), a mandatory part of running a successful business. These technologies are dynamic, flexible, and user-centric, and provide easy access to tools like click-to-call and video conference capabilities, file sharing, and digital whiteboarding while driving productivity and reducing latencies across organizations.

At the office, touchless access and integrated environmental control, digital signage, motion sensors, people counting, desk and room scheduling, and voice activation will all support the ‘New Normal’.

From Experience to Engagement

The battle among enterprises for tomorrow’s customers is fought and won on Customer Experience (CX). Companies are pushing hard to deliver connected CX across channels, processes, and departments – making contact easy and pleasant, lowering thresholds, and ensuring swift response. Smart enterprises will reinvent their customer engagement models to deliver customers a unique, personalized experience and ensure a long-lasting relationship.

New tooling is introduced to enhance the Employee Experience (EX) for better business outcomes. Applications and workflows become user-centric instead of device-centric, tools become intuitive, and interactions are swift and simple.

Dynamic Delivery As A Service

Today, people acquire information, products, and entertainment instantly and on-demand. Accustomed to immediate accessibility, this “On-Demand” generation is forcing businesses to be agile and responsive, changing business dynamics dramatically.

Deploying As a Service model dramatically reduces CapEx investments in equipment, space, and resources. Modular services allow businesses to invest in just what is needed now, trimming up-front costs with full options for future expansion. In 2022, more companies will deploy programmable communications to embed voice, messaging, and video into business applications and workflows via simple-to-use APIs.

Cloud-Centric Accelerates

Cloud computing has redefined IT and software system delivery, making it easier than ever for users to signup, access, and draw on solutions available on-demand and within minutes. Adopting new technologies, functionality, and driving innovation is much easier and faster with cloud-based deployments.

Edge computing will help IoT systems to significantly lower connectivity costs and reduce bandwidth requirements, which in turn will boost the widespread availability of services and insights across businesses and society.

While cloud-based deployments can adopt new technologies more seamlessly than their on-premises counterparts, the need for existing infrastructure to co-exist within this new environment remains. Therefore, many enterprises will adopt hybrid and multi-cloud models.

Ensuring Data Security

Capturing, processing, and analyzing data offers tremendous opportunities for businesses to drive better business intelligence, product development, and customer service. However, our dependence on IT systems makes cyber security a key topic and data protection requires rigorous data security management.

As data sets grow, storage solutions will become more flexible and scalable in order to store, protect, and manage all collected information. Real-time business processes and workflows will also require swift retrieval of data. Embedding work-from-home in company operations creates a greater need for data security management during online collaboration.

Secure end-to-end network services are indispensable in supporting digital business transformation, edge computing, and workforce mobility. Companies will therefore increase investments in flexible and scalable storage solutions.

Holistic Business Continuity

The upsurge of remote working urges enterprises to ensure IT infrastructure and application security when allowing staff to integrate collaboration capabilities into their workflows. Choosing the right disaster recovery strategy will be a key investment in the future of stability for every organization. Lock-step fault tolerance and geo-redundancy technology protect critical data that will help ensure business operations.

The unprecedented supply chain disruption of 2021 has prioritized a holistic and proactive strategy to navigate future disruptions, including closer collaboration between suppliers and customers than in the past.

Augmented Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to be one of the top strategic drivers in the coming decade – with applications ranging from recognition, prediction, and optimization, to reasoning.

AI and machine learning enable systems that are self-educating, self-healing, and proactive. Augmented Intelligence (AUI) focuses on enhancing rather than substituting human involvement. Extended Reality (XR) combines real and virtual environments with human-machine interaction.

In 2022, AI and AUI tools become widely available through cloud platforms and open-source software with adoption across all industries, i.e., government, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and finance. Developers at midsize companies will start using off-the-shelf AI technology.

Digital Inclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important digital connectivity is when physical presence is not possible. Virtual and augmented reality technologies are removing the distance between people, information, and experiences. As technology advances, digital inclusion will encourage all people to participate in society, offering more potential for individuals to bloom and realize a brighter future for all.

Important steps are being made towards building smarter societies – with Information and Communications Technologies playing a vital role in ensuring energy efficiency, sustainable economic development, enhanced safety, and security, along with wise management of natural resources.

As more organizations become increasingly digital, it’s up to the technology partners to provide tools and stay adaptable to help support those businesses during their transformation. NEC has a wide breadth of core UC and IT products and each stands on its own to help solve common business challenges. Our broad portfolio encapsulates multiple solutions into one powerful enterprise approach to meet the demands and digital transformation needs of today’s organizations.

To learn how we can help your organization embrace and capitalize on the Digital Transformation, contact your authorized NEC Representative, or get in touch with us at: https://www.univergeblue.com/get-in-touch

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Putting Dynamic Communications At The Center Of Business

Inaccessibility and non-responsiveness are no longer acceptable in today’s business environment.  It isn’t prudent in winning or retaining customer loyalty; it doesn’t foster internal teamwork; nor does it help in building a sustainable brand reputation.  Plus, from a technology perspective, there really isn’t an excuse for lengthy lags in responsiveness, productivity or collaboration.

Unified Communications (UC) with its integrated approach to advanced voice, mobility, messaging, video and audio collaboration and communications apps, enables organizations of all sizes to effectively manage the how, when and where of their connectivity.  Yet to create such an accessible and dynamic work environment, having the right foundation is essential.  A communications platform that is capable of reliably and quickly facilitating and right-sizing how, when and where regarding its accessibility across and beyond the enterprise.

NEC has been recognized by industry experts as having one of the highest levels of customer satisfaction among UC vendors and providing customer solutions with one of the lowest total cost of ownership in the market.  So what performance factors determine the company’s highly reliable and virtualized UC environments?



Operational & Service Scalability
Interoperability and accessibility are central to agile enterprise operations from an operational and customer service standpoint. Communications systems have to be dependable, sizable and adaptable. But they also must remain manageable. NEC’s UNIVERGE® SV9500 UC solution probably best illustrates how the company is meeting these requirements. Developed for larger and geographically dispersed organizations, this communications solution robustly supports voice, unified communications as well as unified messaging and it is all done from a single point of management. In spite of such broad capabilities, the SV9500 is among the simplest UC-capable systems to configure and integrates simply into existing IT technology as a fully interoperable IP or digital system. There is also a virtualized software model for those seeking more extensive competencies and a new SV9500SE model that brings the SV9500 and its many abilities to smaller-sized organizations.

When it comes to scaling customer service, it is all about meeting if not exceeding expectations. The UC Contact Center suite for the SV9500 exemplifies such front line attention through its fast and efficient handling of customer calls. Able to control high call volume using intelligent routing, inquiries get evenly distributed among contact agents to reduce hold time or can be skill-based to best match queries with the most appropriate representative. Additional agents can even quickly sign in during peaks or purges in caller activity to ensure optimal responsiveness. And to lessen the chance of call abandonment or caller frustration, options such as automated call back and queue announcements can keep those on the line engaged and provide them with control over how their call gets handled. With additional options such as chat, email or voice, callers can truly interact and get the information they need in the manner that they like best.

Collaborative & User Accessibility
Openness and transparency and the capability to react quickly defines what it means to be a highly-connected workforce. Through improved access to critical apps and by knowing when and how to best reach someone, tasks get completed quicker and more easily. When complete suits of user-centric UC and collaborative apps are consolidated into one highly available client, teamwork becomes streamlined. NEC’s SV9300 solution makes all this possible for mid-size organizations with up to 1,500 potential users. By supporting collaborative apps as instant messaging, group chat, audio and video conferencing along with presence technology and intelligent call routing, unencumbered communications can be realized across grouped and dispersed individuals, teams and environments. The fact that the platform’s mobility apps are out-of-the-box ready and compatible across Apple® iPhone®, iPad® and Android™ devices ensures quick deployment and uninterrupted adoption. Equally as important, this compatibility averts any need to replace or reinvest in existing technology and avoid time-consuming and disruptive operational modifications.



Brand Sustainability
Brand memorability depends on the experiences provided. Each and every interaction – whether interpersonal or electronic – has the potential of enhancing or detracting from an organization’s reputation. As a hub for so many apps, communications systems can be instrumental in understanding which applications and devices are promoting or hindering brand loyalty and employee productivity. Intuitive, feature-rich call accounting systems can provide complete visibility into UC usage and the means to effectively evaluate performance. This is why NEC includes a secure and modifiable administration and expense management system with each SV9000 Series communications platform, even for the SV9100 designed especially for smaller-sized organizations. So even smaller companies can benefit and alter their practices by effortlessly scrutinizing how their communications system and collaborative apps are creating brand ambassador moments.

Interested in how NEC – a global leader in the call control market – can optimize your workforce across and beyond the organization? Contact us now and find out …

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Knott’s Berry Farm – How Does a World-Famous Theme Park Make a Great First Impression?

Upon entering the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park, California, you’re immediately immersed in another time. My first impression was of the charm of the place, its friendly “olden days” feel with a sense of Old West adventure. Even with the drama of live-action shows, the addition of its famous wooden roller coaster, exciting rides, shops, and dining choices, Knott’s Berry Farm has managed to retain its historical feel. But is all this history and charm really typical of a customer’s very first impression?

Actually, my first experience with Knott’s Berry Farm began online, followed by a phone call for more information. Just as most people these days would go online to purchase tickets, or book a full vacation package.

The Knott’s Berry Farm theme park is just one part of a larger brand experience. The company also offers the convenient on-property Knott’s Hotel lodging for guests, and the nearby “Soak City” Water Park. As a potential customer, my first impressions could well have been formed by speaking with a contact center representative who assists with guests’ vacation arrangements.

I dare say we’ve all experienced long hold times, and struggled to navigate prompts on an older phone system, trying to reach a live agent just so that we can solve a problem or simply make arrangements to pay for goods or services. Knott’s Berry Farm sought to solve this exact challenge for its customers.

With three distinct Knott’s entities to consider, all struggling with older systems that had long since passed end-of-life and support, Knott’s Berry Farm was faced with some big decisions. Decisions about how to make essential and long overdue changes in their communications system without incurring critical downtime, or disrupting their daily operations, or causing staff re-training headaches—and, since it would impact thousands of end-points, what is the most dependable yet flexible solution with the most efficient network?

Basically, how do you select the right new technology and then transition over from the old, while still maintaining ongoing operations of a giant multi-faceted entertainment enterprise?

Our Knott’s Berry Farm story will share with you the challenges, solutions, and successes of their recent strategic migration to two (2) UNIVERGE SV9500 communications platforms, complete with NEC’s UC for Enterprise (UCE) suite of unified communications (UC) and contact center applications. They chose this flexible, comprehensive UC solution that is fully networked, highly intuitive for staff, provides critical operations information, simplifies administration, has built-in disaster recovery–and was actually cost effective. In their own words, “It was a seamless transition”.

By providing routing assistance and delivering effective toolsets for the newly networked call centers–as well as basic features such as Caller ID, Collaboration, and Mobility for other Knott’s personnel, the upgrading from their existing NEC systems that have served them well, not only helped to enhance customer service between the hotel and park operations, it effectively improved the operation’s internal communications as well, simply by enabling much-increased functionality.

First impressions are important for this kind of Entertainment/ Retail/ Hospitality industry, and are really all about a happy workplace, providing a worry-free environment that can create great memories, for guests and staff alike. Knott’s Berry Farm can now deliver an improved guest experience, from the very first “Thank you for calling Knott’s Berry Farm”, to the last fond farewell.

If you’d like to learn more about this historical venue’s modern day move to state of-the-art communication solutions just let us know, and we can provide you with a free consultation with one of our hospitality experts.

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UC M&A Activity Further Validates NEC’s Smart Enterprise Strategy

Seems like every time I read about what’s happening in the marketplace, I learn that there’s another merger or buy-out happening in the enterprise communications space. Mitel announced recently it is acquiring rival ShoreTel, reportedly to accelerate its “move-to-the-cloud” strategy. This acquisition, along with other recent moves by Avaya and Toshiba, only reinforces my belief in NEC’s strategy for the Smart Enterprise.

NEC’s long history and innovation heritage means we are much more than just a voice and UC company – we are a true enterprise technology pioneer with roots dating back more than 50 years in the United States and over 118 years in Japan.

In developing our wide range of technologies and services, we strive to build solutions that will address specific business needs and challenges by driving safety, security and operational efficiency. These solutions, when integrated and combined in various scenarios, form our portfolio for the Smart Enterprise – our definitive technology strategy for NEC’s vision of the future.

Want advice on how to enrich your customer experience?But let’s get back to the cloud, and more specifically, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). NEC has developed a wide range of unified communications (UC) solutions that can be deployed in the cloud, on-premises or in a hybrid scenario.   For starters, NEC has a strong UCaaS offering called UNIVERGE BLUE Business Cloud Services. UNIVERGE BLUE allows a business to host all or just some of its UC in the cloud.  We also offer the UNIVERGE SV9100 BLUE solution, which is a full phone and UC system deployed on premises with no large up-front investment.   The cloud allows us to offer SV9100 BLUE as an operating expense with a single bill for hardware and service.  All of this is offered today through our extensive channel partner network.

Our portfolio also includes Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), software defined networking (SDN), data center technologies, Unified Communications (on-premises, cloud and hybrid), biometrics, analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence solutions. With a world-class network of Channel Partners and as a direct solutions integrator, we can deploy these solutions globally. Here in the U.S., we also have NEC Financial Services which delivers tailored leasing structures of extraordinary flexibility to customers nationwide.

Additionally, we are discovering new and innovative ways to utilize our biometrics solutions by integrating them with our other solutions. For instance, we have developed a virtual receptionist solution that integrates one of our biometrics applications with our Android™-based touch-screen UT880 telephone. The telephone can be placed in the lobby area and a remote worker is able to greet visitors and then screen them through our NeoFace Watch facial recognition application.

Don’t just take my word for it, the Boston Consulting Group named NEC as one of its 50 Most Innovative Companies and Frost & Sullivan recently honored NEC with their 2016 North America Frost & Sullivan Company of the Year Award for our market approach for the Smart Enterprise by stating, “NEC’s Smart Enterprise initiative is providing holistic enterprise communications transformation options that help customers adapt and flourish in the face of complex challenges.”

While the technology world is ever-changing, one thing that you can count on is NEC and our solutions for Smart Enterprise. We have demonstrated over the years our long-term commitment to our customers and to understanding their unique needs as well as their particular vertical industries. If you are ready to learn more about our solutions for Smart Enterprise and how they can help you optimize your business, please contact NEC today for a free consultation.

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