The following article is an opinion piece by Lee Bryant, managing director of Sesui.
In a world where online, digital and social channels are redrawing the landscape of global communications, the future of the telephone often comes under scrutiny. To learn it actually remains consumers’ preferred means of contacting businesses then comes as a surprise to many* – though less so for those working within the insurance industry. Yet despite this, a number of insurance businesses are still opting to spend their resources on channelling communications through email, web mail, online chat tools and even social media, rather than on improving their telephone systems.
The advent of cloud computing, however, is placing the telephone back at the fore. The cloud is a hot topic within the insurance industry of late and, as businesses increasingly recognise its ability to drive operational gains, cloud-based telephony is gaining momentum. By moving telephony infrastructure into the cloud, businesses are revolutionising their operational agility, customer analytics and contingency. The new infrastructure also gives them flexibility to overlay transformative cloud-based services previously only available through their proprietary telephony provider, without having to rip and replace the existing telephone system.
The customer voice
The way a company communicates with its audience has a major influence on a customer’s willingness to conduct business. As customer expectations continue to evolve and set new benchmarks for customer service, digital innovation has reinvented ways for customers to engage. And yet the long and short of it is, when we want an answer, we pick up the phone: which is why it remains such a fundamental tool within the insurance industry.
The service customers receive when they make that call, whether it’s to take out a policy, seek advice, or make a claim, significantly informs their opinion of that business. That call and the efficiency with which it was dealt, is the definition of customer experience. And it’s why call management isn’t just a part of the company – as far as callers are concerned, it is
Cloud telephony provides an opportunity to enhance customer interaction and drive operational productivity. Call management via the cloud is enabling customers to interact with organisations on their own terms, and empowering them to be more effective and efficient at looking after their customers better than ever before. Moreover, it can help maintain business continuity and support strategic decision-making with real-time insight, unlocking new revenue streams and improving customer experience.
On one level, telephony reduces costs; it removes the need for on-premise equipment, eliminates ongoing maintenance and eradicates regular hardware upgrades. But it’s also about adding value. Cloud telephony allows companies to rework their contact centre environments, adding mobility, flexibility and connectivity to telephone systems.
Remote working is a growing trend within the industry; businesses are coming under pressure to have the relevant processes in place from a regulatory standpoint, but also to meet the demands of the next generation of workers who are now prioritising flexible working options over other benefits. Insurance businesses must therefore ensure their infrastructure enables them to maintain visibility and connectivity with colleagues, wherever they are. Of upmost importance is the assurance that call recording processes and technology are in place and up to scratch for ongoing compliance with operating standards, and the accurate documentation of claims to mitigate disputes, regardless of an agent’s location or device.
Likewise, for companies operating regional call centres across multiple locations, it’s important to have a complete picture of call activity. Cloud telephony brings everything together into a central system, regardless of whether the individual telephone systems supporting each regional call centre are run by a different provider. The centralised system can also unlock additional services to enhance the customer interaction, including call queuing to reduce abandonment, re-routing to help handle peak call volumes and on-screen scripting to support inexperienced operators. Management has instant access to robust performance metrics, providing a holistic view of call activity across all sites, and generating real-time data to inform resourcing decisions, campaign strategies and performance management.
Traditionally, businesses have needed to go through their existing telephony provider to add the layer required to start benefitting from the cloud, incurring additional cost, or requiring a rip and replace of the legacy infrastructure. However, overlay technology now means that companies no longer have to rely on these third party telephony platforms; the technology works with existing infrastructure – whether analogue, digital, IP or mobile – and can be scaled to suit any sized business.
The cost-savings and efficiency gains of the cloud-based approach are now, on their own, enough to demonstrate a speedy return on investment for any business. But in a modern era where consumers still rate the phone as their preferred means of customer contact, the cloud can also help businesses find their voices and establish telephony as an indispensable business tool. The process is quick, simple and cost-effective – all that’s needed is a telephone number.
* CallCentre.co.uk survey of multichannel communications, 2016
The views expressed above are those of Lee Bryant, managing director, Sesui and do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Business.
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