Modern communication suites can help fuel innovation by streamlining a wide range of operations, and fundamentally transforming the underlying business processes.
The reality for most larger organisations, though, is that adding in new tools and applications traditionally involved complex, costly, and risky projects, which are difficult to deliver on time or budget. This has led to the growth of Software as a Service (SaaS) as a primary source of new capabilities, and a key driver of competitive innovation.
SaaS communications suites are allowing knowledge workers to directly solve their immediate business challenges. This is increasingly being applied in 3 key operational areas:
- IT Service Management;
- Staff and Operational Communications; and
- Customer Journey Management.
Operational Communications in Practice
SaaS based communications suites can be quickly implemented, allowing messaging processes to be digitised and moved away from high-cost, inefficient channels. Examples include connecting to collections software and contacting customers re fee balances via automated SMS, rather than manual calls, or mailing paper statements.
Best-in-breed communications suites can be used to manually create messages, or can be connected to an organisation’s existing IT platforms and databases to trigger automated messaging flows. These can be sent to multiple devices (laptops, mobiles, tablets, etc) and on multiple channels, such as SMS, email, social media, Rich Messaging, RSS Feeds and voice calls.
Message receipt can be tracked, and recipients are able to respond appropriately to the situation. For example, an SMS based workflow can be created which sends an automated, location based message to all staff who match pre-defined skills, to cover urgent shift changes, with a Rich Message containing all relevant details, and the option to directly respond yes or no. If insufficient response is received by a certain point, the next stage in the workflow would be to automatically notify management to start manual contact, as needed.
This allows institutions to move from mass notifications which struggle to generate cut through, to tailored information, targeted appropriately to the audience, designed to inspire action and avoid messaging fatigue.
Strategic IT Service Management
To properly support an innovation agenda, IT needs to be a strategic enabler of business outcomes, rather than just providing functional support.
Columbia Business School professor Rita Gunther McGrath posits that no more than 50% of IT spending should be on activities whose sole purpose is to prevent existing systems from breaking down - commonly referred to as ‘keeping the lights on’. For most companies (11) however, the average is around 72%, with only 28% of the IT budget going toward new projects.
Existing manual processes absorb a significant portion of IT staff resources. A major issue is the deluge of notifications flooding into the inbox of IT staff, exceeding 100,000 notifications per day in larger organisation - from basic updates to maintenance reports and outage warnings, creating the conditions for alert fatigue.
Modern communication systems, connected to IT monitoring platforms, can deliver information targeted to the needs of the audience, at the appropriate time, and the device of choice, whether this is tablet accessible dashboards, or interactive mobile messages for ITSM responders. Well-structured operational ITSM communications should include:
- Executive dashboards for easily viewed system-wide information;
- SMS or interactive Rich Messaging for urgent action to responders;
- Automated advisory notices for system users of planned outages and maintenance downtimes; and
- Self-service capabilities for staff to change their levels of notifications.
Staff and Internal Operational Communications
Mobile devices improve the speed and reach of distributing urgent information, and have become a key focus for companies who are currently using, or plan on using SMS to communicate or interact with their customers and employees .
Modern communication systems allow these messages to be planned, distributed, tracked and responded to from a single source of truth.
This provides workforce management for a range of functional areas, from sending company announcements, to account authentication and password reset information, timesheet processing, and for critical notifications. Common applications include:
Occupational, Health, And Safety:
Geolocation, widespread connectivity and information processing power are key features of smartphones that allow these to be the central channel for timely and efficient communication of OH&S requirements to relevant employees, in accordance with regulatory requirements.
Efficient shift fulfilment - quickly contacting employees based on attributes such as skills, location and availability, reduces downtime and increases optimisation of available human resources.
Remote Workforce Management – Safety & Productivity:
- Lone Worker: Maintaining interactive contact with Lone Workers through automated geo-location tracking, and simplified work and situational status reporting, is vital to ensuring these crews have the confidence and tools to operate effectively while alone.
Lone worker apps can track the location of staff, and can be set to either require periodic manual check-ins, or can automatically determine if staff have not moved beyond a certain amount of time, triggering an escalated contact flow to determine ongoing safety.
- Vehicle Telematics: As well as location data, a fleet telematics system provides a list of vehicles, and their status, such as when a vehicle is started up and shut down, as well as factors like idling status, and speed. This information provides complete, up-to-the-minute knowledge of fleet activities in one centralized, web-based interface, helping to improve the efficiency, safety and security of the fleet and drivers.
Situational Awareness Self-Registration Portals:
For staff working remotely, another important safety tool is the ability to proactively update their current information, especially during an unfolding incident. Self-registration sites or opt-in portals, allow employees to personally input all their information, including name, number, address and other relevant situational details.
Mapping tools, in conjunction with geo-location capabilities, allow employees to use a pin drop to locate their actual address, rather than relying solely on map defaults, thereby helping to improve accuracy, and keeping information up-to-date. This higher quality information gives organizations a better chance of reaching employees during events, and ensuring more successful resolutions.
Portals can also be used for managing routine alerts, for example allowing staff to set their preference levels for the types of ongoing communications they need, such as for ITSM operational notifications.
Customer Journey Management
Communications technology also provides a platform to cut the costs associated with manual customer facing transactions, and automate and digitise their ongoing touch points, in areas such as:
Automatically providing interactive welcome and induction packs for new products and services, such as contracts and payment information details for new loans.
- Service and support:
Cutting manual handling costs by automating and digitising ongoing operating contact, including:
- Payment notifications
- VIP relationship management
- Progress notifications for applications
- Facilitating 2FA/one-time passwords
- Claims management
- Billing and collections:
Maintaining consistency of service when dealing with less favourable aspects of customer relationship management, such as the timing and clarity of debt collection or late payment reminders.
Check back in next week as we look at practical steps to moving to messaging automation through SaaS based communications suites.
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