Some argue that a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy is now as important a part of the business communications landscape as having a telephone number or a website. Here’s what you should consider.
Some major corporate technological trends simply don’t matter for SMBs – at least not in the early stages. Twenty years ago, for example, most SMBs didn’t need those brick-sized mobile phones that corporate execs had begun to carry everywhere. The money could be better spent elsewhere in the business.
Mobiles are ubiquitous now, but it turned out that SMBs could safely and profitably leapfrog over the so-called “early adopter” phase in the evolution from fixed line to mobile. In other words, when most SMBs finally embraced mobiles, the technology was physically streamlined and much less expensive. It not only made business sense to embrace it, it had become a necessity. But the world is moving much faster now and the ground has shifted beneath the feet of business technology. Yesterday, the IT department drove technological adoption and integration; today, it’s the consumer doing the driving, or, more precisely, consumer technology.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is one trend that SMBs cannot afford to ignore. Arguably this is a trend that has been building up over a decade as mobile phone use has transitioned into widespread smartphone and tablet use; but now it is as important a part of the business communications landscape as having a telephone number or a website.
The case against?
If anyone is inclined to argue against this trend, they should probably take a look at the numbers. Not only is Australia in the top four countries in the world in terms of smartphone penetration at 47 percent, but in outlining its Top Predictions for 2012, Gartner stated that by 2013, 80 percent of businesses will be supporting workforces using tablets, with that number climbing to 90 percent the following year. An IDC study concluded that 40 percent of the devices used to access business applications are owned personally.
Understandably BYOD risks becoming a buzzword with the focus being on integrating all of these different devices into a company’s technology infrastructure. But BYOD is much more than simply integrating personal employee devices.
At its core, BYOD is about the consumerisation of both the workplace and the front-end of the business – the side that the outside world sees and interacts with. BYOD is about transforming a company’s entire infrastructure into a dynamic hub in which not only do employees interact with each other but they can interact with everyone, from business partners to customers and potential customers in a seamless way. BYOD isn’t just about employees bringing their devices to work, it is about everyone that your business can possibly interact with bringing their devices to you.
The digital wallet, the increasing preference for interacting through social media, the recently reported surge in people being more confident about their smartphone’s security as a payment platform than they are about physical credit cards – all of these developments are powerful evidence that SMBs must be prepared to engage everyone across a range of devices and platforms.
The impact of the cloud
Cloud technologies and virtualisation of infrastructure, and even the desktop, has further encouraged the adoption of BYOD for SMBs. Smartphones and similar devices fit the highly mobile, low-to-no capital investment, instantly up and running, tech strategies now possible through cloud since they provide yet another access point to the shared computer resources available to SMBs.
One of the greatest challenges for an SMB when it comes to BYOD is management. In a way, the costs are being shifted away from hardware, which the cloud and employees are providing themselves, to the software and management processes that will drive business efficiency to the next level.
Clearly every SMB is different. Some might have far flung workforces that they need to unify through the best communications strategies available; others will be seeking new ways to reach customers which will likely entail developing cutting edge contact centres that harness the power of BYOD.
The first step is to determine how best an SMB can connect the people it needs to connect with the right information at the right time. Universal collaboration is the aim and this can only be achieved when your business’ communication structure is no longer device or media dependent, but supports users collaborating with their own customised tool sets from anywhere.
BYOD has opened the door to creating virtual workspaces and the reality of tapping into collective intelligence to drive innovation. Research has shown that employees can save up to 60 minutes every day by using features that make them more reachable and responsive. SMBs can achieve big company value with small company price and flexibility.
To see how this might work in practice, let’s take a look at contact centres. In the past, a contact centre was centralised and basically a “two-way” street. Customers phoned in and their queries were addressed by employees during fixed hours. Things have dramatically changed. According to the 2011 Avaya Asia Pacific Contact Centre Consumer Index survey, consumers are now much less forgiving when it comes to customer service issues (social media also means that dissatisfaction can quickly spread virally across the web denting a company’s reputation). As many as 87 percent of respondents said that they were likely to tell their friends and switch to competitors after receiving what they judged as poor customer service. Our research and experience strongly supports the idea that customer service is the single biggest differentiating factor for both the private and public sectors – and it is especially crucial for SMBs.
That “two-way” street of customer service has become a multi-laned highway operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Customers increasingly expect to be able to interact with businesses via voice, email, text, social media and even video. According to Avaya’s 2011 Index Survey, 35 percent of Australians said that they preferred web chat and web self-service above traditional phone calls to a customer service centre. Singapore customer preference, typically a trend predictor, suggests that interaction via smartphone app will be the next important development (76 percent of Singaporeans prefer this). Thus, businesses must be capable of communicating with customers the way the customer wants to communicate.
How to go about it
But how does an SMB actually do this? First, the business must determine the best, most cost-effective way of seamlessly integrating all of its employees’ BYOD devices behind a consistent user experience. It needs to consider security, but not become so bogged down by security issues that communication suffers. Seeking guidance from a company that specialises in unified communication is probably the best first step.
For example, increasing customer interaction doesn’t have to translate to an increase in headcount. In fact, in our experience we have seen increases in call volume of up to 20 percent without the need to add more employees. The key is scalability while keeping the ultimate aim, better customer service communication, at the centre. Solutions like intelligent routing, multimedia self-service capabilities, business application integration, monitoring, reporting, anticipating customer queries, and other applications need to be considered.
Ultimately, you want to emerge with a communications system in which employees can engage customers and each other on their own devices over the Internet, phone and even video while always having access to customer history no matter where the employee physically is.
In the final analysis, BYOD goes hand-in-hand with the technological consumerisation of the workplace and the marketplace and must be something that SMBs actively embrace. The goal needs to be meeting the customer in a way that delivers the right resources in the best way. The promise of the integrated contact centre is also the promise of BYOD in general: using existing technology to make every aspect of your company’s communications more effective and profitable, and always built around the best user experience possible.