Don't consider VoIP for its own sake. Think of it as voice-plus – It is a well known phenomenon that evolving and new technologies can create a variety of ways to run a business or even a life. This can result in both a positive and/or negative impact on the way we work and live.

On the negative side, the breadth of applications can cause confusion, as multiple parties suggest different ways to get the most benefit from the technology. And while most of the suggestions probably have some merit, it takes time before standardization occurs and the technology becomes universally applicable.

In a way, that’s what we’re seeing with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – a development that is pretty much universally viewed as a ‘good idea’ but one that is also being clouded by the sheer volume and diversity of opinions as to what it’s good for.

With that in mind, let’s get back to the basics of VoIP and see if we can understand if there is a common denominator for what makes it ‘good’.

The essential point about VoIP is that it adds functionality to voice. It is voice plus whatever else you want to do. How the technology achieves that isn't really relevant, as long as it stays affordable. What really does matter is that voice plus contributes to the financial benefits every single organization wants from realize from technology. It enables you to do more with less. Much more.

Improving service levels

With the current economic climate biting hard in all areas, one way in which voice can make a real difference is increasing the efficiency of IT users across the organization. VoIP does this by effectively turning your telephony system into a self-help service.

In a typical IT Help Desk, at least 30 percent of inbound calls are for routine queries such as password resets and account unlocks. By using VoIP to facilitate self-service, Help Desk operatives can be freed-up from mundane tasks and instead re-deployed to work on second and third-line support roles, which can often add a lot more value back to the business.

The immediacy of self-service also has a positive impact on customer satisfaction, as users often prefer the ability to log calls and resolve problems without the need to wait on hold or explain issues to human operatives. While external customers sometimes bemoan the inability to talk to a human, it seems employees often prefer it that way!

Beyond the IT department

The same increase in productivity and customer satisfaction applies in other areas of business operations, such as Human Resources, where routine queries about leave or payroll issues can be serviced by voice-enabled self-help technologies.

Even the approval of leave applications can be handled by the system. The evidence provided by customers using FrontRange voice solutions suggests that, provided employees can make contact by voice, rather than keyboard, then both acceptance and satisfaction with the self-help system are high.

Ultimately, voice-enabling routine activity allows multiple departments to improve efficiency and productivity across the entire organization.

Looking for the big savings

One of the factors that makes VoIP so appealing is that no matter where you make the initial investment, be in the service desk, or perhaps as part of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, the technology can be introduced to other parts of the organization to increase its overall return to the organization.

Imagine, for instance, that you're about to make a PowerPoint presentation to a customer. As you're setting up in his board room, you find the presentation you are about to give won’t work as the version of PowerPoint on your laptop is older than the one your corporate marketing team used to create it. No problem, because your own office is voice enabled. You phone the help desk, which re-provisions your laptop using 3G via your company's virtual private network (VPN). Within a matter of minutes, the system has checked company policies and established that you are allowed to have PowerPoint 2007, checked that your laptop is out of compliance, done an automated reinstall or self-healed the laptop, checked that everything is working, and turned your machine back over to you.

In the process it has logged an incident, which will, in turn, form part of a management report that will help executives make decisions about the sales pipeline, operations, and long term strategy.

And there's so much more that voice plus makes possible. The critical consideration is not to simply look at voice for its own sake – but identify how voice plus can make a real tangible difference to existing areas of your business.

About the author

Greg Anderson is the Global General Manager for the Goldmine solution at FrontRange Solutions, a leading developer of CRM, ITSM and Infrastructure Management solutions.

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