Latin America: With UC&C, Business Will Never Be the Same

This week, Brazil takes a deep breath from the whirlwind days of the FIFA World Cup and returns to business. The fact is that businesses in Brazil, and in Latin America for that matter, are not going to be the same much longer. In short, business for a lot of people is no longer limited to the confines of an office. Research indicates that by 2015, there will be 1.3 billion mobile workers worldwide. Recognizing this shift, businesses across the globe are leveraging modern communications tools, those which enable workers who are on the go to remain connected in order to adapt to this changing landscape.

Unified Communications tools are becoming more popular than ever as they cater to a mobile workforce. Such tools that combine voice, data, presence, email, and video into a single interface provide employees with access to their critical communications from any Internet-connected device, no matter where they happen to find themselves.

Latin America is no stranger to the mobility trend and many businesses in these countries are turning to UC solutions to accommodate their employees. In fact, according to a report from Frost & Sullivan, the Latin American Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) market is expected to grow to $1.83 billion by 2019, increasing substantially from the $1.01 billion market it was in 2012.

According to the report, 70% of employees feel they can do their job remotely at least three days a week. Unified Communications tools enable telecommuting without compromising on work productivity. As a result, businesses that adopt the technology and telecommuting policies see talent loss reduced by 74% and employee morale increased by 79%.

In other words, UC tools are a win for both the business and the employee. Businesses benefit from a happier workforce, while employees are able to access critical communication in real-time, no matter where they are. Additionally, the technology allows collaboration to take place between co-workers at their convenience.

Businesses in Latin America recognize the need for UC tools and the numbers speak for themselves. If you’re a vendor or an IT consultant considering whether to add the modern technology to your portfolio or not, click here to learn more.

In the meantime, enjoy the infographic below detailing the state of the cloud market in Brazil and stay tuned for a similar one for Mexico. And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog!

Brazil UCC

3 Ways to Lower Costs in Healthcare with Unified Communications

Escalating costs in healthcare has been a constant headline topic for years. So much so that worldwide famous economists, Robert S. Kaplan and Michael Porter both tackled the healthcare cost problem by suggesting the activity-based costing method. The main pillar of this method is streamlining operations. Studies show that doctors spend 25% of their time in direct patient contact while another 24% is spent communicating with fellow colleagues. 24%! This is a huge percentage that no doubt could be lowered by employing smarter communication tools.

As such, healthcare providers, both large and small must constantly look to take advantage of new communication infrastructure enhancements. And many of them, if they haven’t already deployed them, are looking towards Unified Communications solutions.

Eva Blue - Peaceful Hearts Doctor, San Francisco
© Eva Blue – Peaceful Hearts Doctor, San Francisco

 
In fact, research from IBM about Unified Communications in healthcare concludes that nurses are able to reduce the time they spend looking for co-workers by 45% and reduce their response time to phone calls by 61%. Altogether, in a day, they gain two additional hours that they can reinvest in attending to their patients.

Small healthcare providers in particular have their work cut out for them when it comes to streamlining operations. Generally speaking, fewer employees means that more is expected of each. Access to Unified Communications tools helps employees boost their productivity without having to extend their day. Below are the three most common productivity improvements that Unified Communications tools can bring.

More Efficient Operations

Imagine a small healthcare facility that has eight examination rooms sprawled out across the floor of a building. It is staffed by two doctors and six nurses, as well as a team of medical assistants. One of these medical assistants is performing a check on a patient located in an examination room on the far side of the building. The patient asks her a question that must be addressed by one of the nurses or doctors.

Rather than leaving the examination room and running the corridors to track down one of them or calling them on the phone without anybody picking up, the medical assistant can leverage UC tools, checking the presence status of each professional. After figuring out who is available, she can then shoot that person the question quickly via instant message and receive a response in real-time.

Now, imagine all employees in similar scenarios throughout the day and it will become even more clear that UC tools can significantly bolster organizational efficiency.

More Availability

Nurses spend a lot of their day on the phone or at their computers, dealing with messages from doctors, patients and pharmacies; calling patients to relay the results of blood work, for example; and calling in prescriptions. The time they spend talking on the phone at the nursing station is time they’re not spending with patients.

Once Unified Communications tools are deployed across a healthcare facility, nurses are no longer tied to the nursing station to pick up phone calls. Messages and calls can be redirected to a mobile device, allowing them to respond to them when they get a minute. Nurses are then able to prioritize their tasks on the go and, as a result, they become more responsive to their patients.

Better Customer Care

Unified Communications tools can also be employed for better managing customer experience, especially if they are integrated with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. Imagine a customer that calls to make a routine dental check-up appointment and the assistant can instantly see on the screen all the patient’s history. Thus she can recommend additional check-ups that are relevant to the case. She can also see when the patient’s partner had their last check-up and recommend an appointment for them as well. This translates not only into better service but in additional revenue as well.

Patients want quicker, more efficient treatment, and the reason most nurses go into the field of healthcare is to help restore well-being to those who are sick. Deploying Unified Communications tools should invariably improve both patient and employee happiness. They help employees stay connected and access critical communication no matter where they happen to be. The technology helps increase efficiency by saving time and by improving customer experience, and as a result, reduces costs. And this is of utmost importance in an industry blamed for escalating costs years in a row.

Healthcare vertical may have not been a frequent target for Unified Communications so far, but lately, more and more service providers are looking at ways they can improve the efficiency of their healthcare customers with an affordable solution.

Collaboration Software: Impressive Results on Business Productivity

Business collaboration is that elusive Holy Grail of corporate executives. Blamed whenever a project fails or derails (96% of executives blame workplace failures on lack of it), hailed as the key to success whenever somethings works, every business planning cycle takes into account how to improve the way employees collaborate. Yet, since collaboration software or enterprise social networks stepped into the world, improving how we work is closer to reality.

In fact, in a recent study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, 86% of businesses indicated that online collaboration software was either “important” or “somewhat important”. Compared to 52% in 2012 and 75% in 2013, it’s fairly obvious that businesses are increasingly turning toward such solutions to bolster productivity, streamline business processes, and encourage collaboration as much as possible.

To keep up with this interest level and likely sales opportunities, service providers should consider adding collaboration software to their portfolios.
 

Improving Organizational Efficiency

 

World Cup Football on the Edge and the Need for a Resilient Contact Center

The United States might be known for many things, but the prowess of its men’s soccer team is not one of them. This is the reason why many football enthusiasts around the world were puzzled when John Brooks’ header made it passed the Ghanaian goalie in the 86th minute of the World Cup game, giving the Americans a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

It was an upset to say the least. And Americans across the country took to Twitter to celebrate en-masse, indicating a large U.S. fan base for the Brazil-hosted event, as well as a hit for social media platforms. Twitter reported 4.9 million tweets sent during the U.S. vs. Ghana match. The latest U.S. vs. Portugal also brought a flurry of activity on Twitter when Portugal’s Varela managed to equalize the score in minute 90+5′ :)


Now imagine what would have happened if the cable providers carrying the game had a problem with their infrastructure, dropping the game unintentionally. All of the millions soccer fans glued to their screens would stare in shock at a blank TV facade. It would be only a matter of time before they reached out to their cable providers demanding an explanation, and they had better not be disappointed with subpar service at yet another level.

With the possibility of an almost unfathomable deluge of incoming calls, only cable providers with resilient contact centers well-prepared to handle high volumes could respond satisfactorily to customer demand. To do so, they would have had to have deployed cloud communications solutions and industry-leading contact center tools that help agents navigate complex customer landscapes. Why cloud? Because only cloud solutions can offer instant scalability at an affordable rate. Any other solution (i.e. on-premises) would have to be provisioned for thousands of concurrent calls capacity, which, to be frank, is no longer a viable solution from the cost perspective.

That’s where robust solutions like VoipNow enter the equation. Such solutions, designed specifically for the cloud, provide contact centers with the agility they need to handle sudden bursts in traffic. What’s more, the VoipNow has Unified Communications functionality, allowing agents to connect with customers via video calls and access all the tools they need to do their job, even remotely, so long as they have an Internet connection. Presumably, agents could be working from home for the rest of the Brazil World Cup, enjoying the games from the couch, for all customers would care. :)

Click here to learn more about how VoipNow can transform your contact center, allowing you to handle whatever might come your way.

In The Company of Strong Teammates

For the past three years, 4PSA’s girls cycling team mounted the podium in the women’s category at the Skoda Velo Challenge. We have a dedicated corner in our open space filled with the trophies they brought home. This is a good motivation to train hard every year, because maintaining a top place is not an easy task. And now we’ve raced our bikes in the Baneasa forest once again.

For those of you who do not know what Skoda Velo Challenge is, here’s the short story: it’s a relay cycling race opened for people working at the same company. We team up to compete against other companies in the same field of work or in the general classification. It’s basically a fun day in the woods, without computers and tasks, but with deadlines to meet. Well, you do need to beat the other competitors’ times, don’t you?

Winning Does Not Come Easy, But Feels Great

With only two girls willing to join the ranks this year, we took a different approach. We entered the race with two teams in the mixed competition. Team Hubgets and Team VoipNow, each made of three boys and one girl, lined up at the starting grid, along with 81 teams from other companies. Team Hubgets relied on stronger riders and aimed high. Team VoipNow was all about the fun of it.

RS9239_20140614_100104~2

 
The day before the race, the course looked somewhat damp, with a few puddles here and there. People complained about this on social media channels. On top of everything, a heavy rain fell in the evening, leaving the forest a muddy mess. This was perfect for us though, as we love mud and have the technical skills to tackle this kind of terrain.

Our strategy was trialed and tested from last year – let a strong rider go first and put up a fast lap so that the teammate that follows him in the second lap would have a clear course ahead. The girl would be last. I don’t think any of the other mixed teams did this. As you’ll see, in the end this strategy paid off.

The organizers decided to take a weird approach for the starting lineup, positioning everybody by the number they received when they registered for the competition (like that would be a good indicator of performance). We had bib number 69 out of 83, so… we were waaaay behind the starting line. But, hey, their race, their rules!

Being the first rider, I pushed hard from the beginning, trying to leave behind as many people as possible on the tarmac and the wide forest road that followed. Getting stuck behind a slow rider on the single trail part of the course would ruin the lap and cost the team important seconds. There are 11 kilometers of flat terrain, where all you can do is push yourself to the limit. In the end, I managed to set a good pace for the rest of my teammates.

We all went in the battle one by one wrestling the mud and going up the ranks. We found the course to be quite enjoyable, the rolling surface offering just enough grip under the tires to stop you from losing control, but also accelerating the adrenaline level when the bicycle’s backend was all over the place.

During the last lap, our Hubgets girl was overtaken by somebody from the IBM team. She knew their team was mixed and anticipated the race would be tight all the way to the finish line. The IBM guy was in front on the last single trail in the woods, blocking our girl from overtaking. But she stuck with him and accelerated on the straight line to the finish.

It’s Not Only About Winning Big, It’s Also About Having Fun

The IBM team and we actually crossed the line at the exact same time. However, since it was a net time race and we started the race 6 seconds behind the IBM guys, we managed to overtake them in the final results and Team Hubgets won.

10492391_679329978806215_9132994991488179131_n-450x298.jpg
© Adrian Popa – more pictures here

 
So, you see, the fight for first place in the IT category was that tight. Team Hubgets also won the second place in the mixed race, right after Ericsson. Team VoipNow did a wonderful job in the race as well and all teammates deserve the props for giving all their best in fighting the mud and fierce competition.

In the end, this whole event was just an excuse to get some of our Clouders out and having serious fun on the trails near our HQ. Might it be rainy, muddy or hellish hot, you’ll still see us smiling when it’s over :)

Transforming Contact Centers with VoipNow

Companies today understand the importance of differentiating their businesses from the competition’s by offering customer service that is second-to-none. This imperative is supported by recent research, which indicates that more than half of customers will take their business elsewhere in the aftermath of a negative experience with a brand.

When companies decide to enhance customer service delivery, their decision makers often first look at contact centers. Since contact centers serve as the human extension of brands, they are the primary interface with key targets and, therefore, of paramount importance in retaining customers or improving relationships with them.

As a result, many businesses choose to deploy industry-leading contact center solutions, many of them cloud-based, to bolster their customer service offerings. And this means that business is good for contact center providers.

 
Service providers catering to these businesses need to stay on top of industry trends and add to their portfolios those solutions that ensure their customers get all the functionality they want. Cloud communications platforms are a common solution for several customer service key trends. Read more

Why We Were Happy to Support Rails Girls Bucharest

On May 30-31st, for the first time ever, Bucharest was the host of the international Rails Girls event, that we were happy to support as a main sponsor. Rails Girls Bucharest was a 2-day free workshop exclusively dedicated to women who are new to software engineering, but keen on learning Ruby on Rails. The event, organized by Girls Who Code Romania, was held simultaneously in Bucharest, Cluj, and Timișoara.

We chose to support Rails Girls Bucharest, not only because at 4PSA women are significantly represented (approximately 45% of our software engineers are women). But because we truly believe that women play an important role in technology. Read more

3 Ways for Service Providers to Benefit from IaaS Market Trends

Cloud computing market is no longer a trend or a niche subject. Cloud seems to be here to stay and is slowly becoming the new playing field, shaping up industries as it grows and forcing them to adapt.

In a series of articles we’ll investigate how the cloud computing market is segmented, its growth rate and also what this whirlwind evolution means for service providers that focus on SMBs. Read more

GalleryManager – Winning App In Spring Race III

As promised, today’s post is authored by Laur Neagu, winner of the last online hackathon in our Spring Races series.

Hello everyone! My name is Laur and I’m the designer of the winning app in Spring Race III. When I started developing the app, I didn’t think of a name for it. Meanwhile, I found one – GalleryManager :)

The purpose of GalleryManager is to classify a set of pictures according to a series of criteria such as time of day, picture quality, location, weather conditions, etc. We all know that managing our camera roll pictures can be a nightmare, so I’m thinking many people will find this app very useful.

What is interesting about it is that it recognizes the number of people shown in pictures. Plus, it saves to a temporary folder the faces recognized in each picture. The photos, saved as grayscale, and are focused on face details. Now that I’ve enabled this, I’m very close to finding the total number of pictures in which a certain person appears, throughout the entire camera roll, indicating those exact pictures, and a couple of more interesting criteria. For now, using Gallery Manager you can sort your photos by the number of faces in the pictures.
 

 
My app is also able to determine details about the location of the photo: in a gallery, at a sport event, indoor, outdoor, in the sun, under the moon, in open space etc. For that I used the Exif standard of the picture and I applied certain algorithms on Exif elements such as shutter value, FNumber or exposure value. Exif metadata also allowed me to get the latitude and longitude of the place where the photo was taken (its geolocation). And to sort them by quality, I used the resolution as a criterion.

For the time being, GalleryManager is a desktop application, but I intend to develop it as a web application (ASP.NET), then on mobile devices (Windows Phone for the beginning), and release it as soon as possible.

That is about it, I am glad to answer any comments.

Thank you 4PSA!

Laur

How Cloud Communications Help Create a Holistic Customer Experience

By 2020, customer experience will matter more than price and product in determining consumer purchases. A strong and sobering fact for most companies. Thanks to the rise of the digital world, customers now have more choices when it comes to brand selection. Following a bad experience with a company, consumers are able to go online and spread the word about their poor experience. And this experience soon leads the way in which other consumers will make their purchase decisions. Because of this, many forward-thinking businesses are focused on cultivating an environment leading to positive customer experiences.

Deciding to pay more attention to improving customer service, many contact center decision makers are embracing the fact that customer experience needs a holistic approach. Customers no longer tolerate companies living and acting in silos. In fact, an omni-channel customer experience stands out as one of the top trends affecting how customers perceive their interactions with a specific company. A holistic approach entails achieving synergies among the multiple tools that companies use to serve customers, especially the contact center tools. Among these, there are two main factors that count: one is a strong and versatile cloud communications platform and the other, making sure this cloud communications platform has a modern application programming interface (APIs). That’s because modern APIs allow for easy integrations among tools.

Firstly, cloud communications platforms such as VoipNow, can be used successfully for contact centers. That’s because no matter how many customers desire new tools to communicate with a company, voice is still no 1. And VoipNow’s core is represented by hosted PBX and VoIP, bundled with Unified Communications and smart contact center functionalities. In fact, recent research by eConsultancy indicates that 61 percent of customers desire voice support for their problems. Customers still prefer speaking with an agent on the phone whenever a problem or concern pops up, so voice is still the primary communications vehicle for your target audience.

Additionally though, customers are increasingly opting to receive support via video calls and through social media channels. Therefore, the ways in which customers prefer to be helped are changing, and contact centers are moving toward delivering what is truly an omni-channel experience.

Source: eConsultancy

Source: eConsultancy

This move towards omni-channel can only be supported through synergies between multiple tools. There is no single, complete, customer service tool. Coming back to our second factor, you need a modern API. By deploying strong cloud communications solutions featuring advanced APIs, various applications work seamlessly together, enabling agents to access information the moment they need it. Additionally, since data is accessible from a centralized hub, decision makers can say goodbye to the days of fragmented information; departments work in harmony and businesses realize the effect of the resulting synergies. Together, this functionality helps ensure that a personal touch is delivered during each customer interaction. And personalization stands out as another customer experience trend turning mainstream. In a future blog post, we’ll talk more about the trends affecting customer service and how cloud communications platforms can support them.

In conclusion, to be prepared to seamlessly handle the move towards a holistic customer service, service providers and business owners will want to look for cloud communications platforms with modern APIs that can integrate with contact center software tools, CRM software and other business applications. That way, agents are able to make use of the wealth of customer-specific information at their fingertips and create the kind of customer experience that is necessary in today’s digital world.

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