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Manage communications? Yes, you can!Workstreampeople is the developer of Anywhere365 and an expert in managing the logistics of communication. The Dutch company, which won the FD-Gazelle Award for the second time this year, is seeing more than 100% growth every year and serves 372 clients worldwide, including big names like Swarovski and ThiemeMeulenhoff. We sat down with Gijs at the company's headquarters, nestled in a building that's quintessentially Rotterdam: the Van Nelle Factory.
“At Workstreampeople, we believe that everyone in the organization has to be a part of customer contact. So that's in direct opposition to the idea of a contact center with a front and back office. We also think that the contact center or customer contact in general is all too often a firewall for organizations. In reality, what often happens is that customers can’t get in contact with a company because the organization can't deal with the inflow. You can prevent that by making your customers a part of the business process. That means that companies have to integrate their customers into their current processes and no longer look at customer communication as something that’s impossible to manage, because communication can actually be properly managed."
Gijs offers an example. "In telephony, you often have a telephony manager who looks at the technical side of telephony. But telephony is actually just voice. If you have telephone contact with a customer, that belongs with the marketing and sales department, not with someone who says, 'the phone's ringing'. Because if the call is connected to a phone no one's sitting at, it's an unnecessary ringing. That might sound really logical, but it's actually the way we've been working for 120 years. And in all that time, no one's come up with the idea to create a sort of ERP for communications to help businesses address the inefficiencies in their communication logistics."
Unified communicationsAs more and more businesses move towards unified communications (UC), the need to manage these different kinds of communications – like messages sent via web chat or video – is growing. What's Gijs' take on these developments? "UC means that you have, in your workspace, the ability to show a colleague, partner or customer something via all available means of communication, as though that person was standing right next to you. So to me, UC is a primarily technical term for something that people want to label. It's actually really simple. People can look, talk and write, and that's what all forms of communication are based on. But now technology has made it possible for us to add video and chat, and that's what we call UC. But what it's really about is that we have the opportunity to communicate more effectively with each other, that we can manage dialogues. That's why, at Workstreampeople, we talk about dialogue management. And when we talk about dialogue management, we do that from a CRM point of view. How are you going to communicate with your customers? If they send you an e-mail and then call, do you know that the customer sent you that e-mail?”
Logistics factorVia Anywhere365, Workstreampeople helps organizations improve their dialogues with customers, employees and partners. "Anywhere365 was designed for Skype for Business users. You could say that the solution adds the logistics factor to the platform. Here's a simple example: a customer calls an account manager, but they're not available. Then the system can make sure that the customer gets someone from the sales team on the line. That way people don't have to stay endlessly on hold or plod through all kinds of impenetrable menus." According to Gijs, this development isn't just about UC – it can strengthen UC, as well. "UC just means that you can communicate with someone at any moment, in any way. But to communicate successfully, you want to be absolutely sure that the person you're communicating with is the right one.”
Tips and pitfallsDoes Gijs have some tips for companies who want to do something with UC but are still in doubt or don't know where to start? "I talk to a lot of companies about dialogue management and UC. The majority of them are excited, but there are also organizations that say they're not quite there yet. So then they’ll decide to replace the old stuff with virtually the same thing and then look into whether they want to take a step into the future. But that's old thinking, conservative and protective. And the consequence is that the results are disappointing and the employees are less productive than the competition. And what do these kind of organizations do next? They fire their people, but keep the same infrastructure. What I'm saying is, just look at the kids. Kids don't call, they text, and they're the employees of tomorrow. And don't forget, smart people are scarce. If you're behind the times as an organization, smart employees will get bored quickly and go work somewhere that fits them better. Today's technology offers two opportunities: to structure your company more intelligently or give your new employees a space they like. Another way to stay conscious of these kinds of developments is by just looking around the office. Do you still have a phone on your desk that never gets used? Then maybe it's time to think about why you're paying for that phone. Try to get a handle on how many unnecessary dialogues are happening in your organization and then figure out what that costs and whether or not you want to do something about it. And if you do want to do something about it, make sure you're going about it the right way. A lot of people are advising customers when they have no idea what kind of developments are happening, and that's a risk. Why would you invest in a steam locomotive when we're about to go to Mars? Another pitfall is using Skype for Business on outdated software. Once you put traditional software on innovative infrastructure, you end up with outdated software."
Top priorityAccording to Gijs, UC is inescapable, and companies are going to encounter it sooner or later. "Every company is going to be confronted by UC, even if it’s just to combine telephony with video. And every organization that matters or thinks they matter cannot escape the reality that the means of communication have to be smarter and more efficient. UC is the driver of that. I'm convinced that dialogue management is going to become a CIO/CEO topic because it brings everything together: customer information, back office processes, logistics processes, marketing and a website where you execute your marketing. All of these things have to do with communication with your customer, internal or external. In fact, we spend the entire day dealing with dialogues; it's the ultimate form of communication. Sometimes you need video, sometimes voice and sometimes you can get it done with text. The question is, how do you bring it all together logistically?"