Companies are always searching for new ways to enhance their business or enterprise communications in order to take their company performance and customer service to the next level. In recent years, Unified Communications (UC) and collaboration tools have rapidly grown and become more popular options because they offer companies a successful means of cutting costs and centralizing communication channels. The pressure to meet the needs of a distributed workforce and the demanding expectations for always-on and real-time connectivity by partners and customers are also some of the factors that drive the adoption of UC solutions.
But for some companies, embracing UC isn’t just about cutting costs or staying ahead of competitors tech-wise. Adopting UC and tapping its full potential is also about giving employees the best user experience possible in order to deliver better performance and customer service.
In this article, Todd Carothers, the EVP of Sales and Marketing for CounterPath, shares why user experience is vital for UC and how CounterPath is providing businesses and their employees the best user experience in all of their platforms and UC offerings.
First: What is the Difference Between User Experience and Usability?
User experience and usability are terms quite often used interchangeably. While they are related and may appear one and the same, there are subtle and important distinctions between them.
ISO defines usability as “the extent to which a system, product or service can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.” Meanwhile, user experience is defined as a “person's perceptions and responses resulting from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system or service.”
Usability is about ease of use and is more goal-oriented, whereas, user experience is more emotionally-based. It is worth noting, though, that usability is actually a part of the user experience. Usability is a narrower concept when compared to user experience because its focus is on goal achievement. User experience, on the other hand, covers more than that; it is the result of everything a user goes through whenever using a system or application.
So Why is the User Experience Important for UC?
The 2013 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications identified five characteristics which they believe are crucial to the success of a UC product. And at the top of the list? User experience. According to Gartner, “the quality and effectiveness of the overall user experience (UX) across all devices will heavily influence the effectiveness of the solution, its adoption rate and, ultimately, enterprise productivity. While consolidated administration and management are important characteristics of a successful solution, it is the high-quality end-user experience that will drive adoption and productivity.”
Indeed, many enterprises today now look beyond the per-user price and full feature set when shopping for a cloud communications system. They also consider whether a system provides a quality user experience so their employees can fully reap the benefits of UC. Additionally, one big factor most companies are now considering is mobility, given the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as well as a steady increase in mobile, remote workers. Carothers listed four big must-haves that solutions need to be mobile: usability, video capabilities, codec support, and integrations. "Users need a mobile solution that matches user experience that they have in the office, and one that is bulletproof in the mobile arena," revealed Carothers.
So for businesses, it's important to ask: what good does technology or a process bring if its intended users are not satisfied with it? With this question in mind, CounterPath strives to deliver a superior solution that is highly focused on the importance of the user experience across all devices, all locations, and on all networks.
How CounterPath Delivers Exceptional User Experience
According to Carothers, user experience wasn’t always something CounterPath focused on, especially in the company's infancy. “CounterPath was founded and created as a company that developed softphones for a hard-phoned desk phone world," said Carothers. "The company’s first prototype was a hard phone for a Windows environment. The user experience, of course, wasn’t initially great, so the company innovated and went from basic capabilities to grow into a carved out softphone that offers voice, video, mobile, chat, and collaboration across any device, over any network, on any call platform.” The company places a big focus on consistency across the board, ensuring that their users have a great customer journey from the time they log in.
Today, CounterPath brings products and solutions that benefit enterprises, both small and large, who want to use technology to provide the best user experience for their employees. Their standout solutions include Stretto Platform, Bria Suite, and Bria X.
- Stretto Platform - The Stretto Platform is a provisioning, messaging, presence, analytics, and screen sharing platform that lets enterprises and service providers create flexible solutions to maximize the user experience service. Deployments can be made on top of current VoIP switches, session border controllers, as well as PBXs and cloud communication services. It includes a wide range of modules such as Provisioning, User Experience Metrics, Help Desk, Push Notifications, Contact Discovery, Call and Message Continuity, Subscriber Line Proxy, SMS over IP, and SIP/SIMPLE Messaging and Presence, all of which can be added as needed.
- Bria Suite client line - The Bria softphone suite supports 97% of all iOS, android, tablet and mobile devices. Feature-rich and reliable, Bria softphone app clients include voice and video messaging, presence, and screen share (available for all sizes and types of devices). With its intuitive user interface, users get to leverage all the best UC features while at work, at home, or on the go.
- Bria X - Released in November 2016, CounterPath’s Bria X is centrally managed from the cloud, which incorporates team messaging, presence, screen sharing, and voice and video features. It combines CounterPath's softphone suite with platform solutions and can be hosted or deployed on-site. Carothers said, “the genius of Bria X is that it is affordable for users to have a system that easily overlays with what they already have.” Bria X is currently offered at $5.00 per month per user.
In addition to these solutions, CounterPath has also introduced a new offering: Bria for Salesforce. The solution integrates calling within Salesforce, the leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. According to Carothers, Bria for Salesforce can support sales managers in many ways. “First, Bria is nested within the webpage and when users make a call through Bria, they get a record of inbound calls and easy access to info," said Carothers. "When a call is done, Bria prompts users to enter notes, which are populated in Salesforce and recorded automatically,” explained Carothers. The solution also enables sales teams to capture data easily and helps sales managers generate reports and see all data for leads that come in, notes, call time, etc.
In addition to delivering exceptional customer experience, Carothers also believes that CounterPath stands out in the UC market today because of the following:
- Platform agnostic - CounterPath solutions are interoperable with multiple vendors and can work with any current system, existing as either a hosted or premise based solution.
- Multi-device support - The provider also supports different operating systems and devices, which enable seamless communication and switching between devices. Carothers says, “One of the big advantages is when users are on a mobile phone on WiFi and switch to LTE; CounterPath does not drop the call and easily switches to accommodate the user.”
- Customization and continuous innovation - Another factor that helps CounterPath standout is its ability to offer white label solutions as well as of customization of features and interface for clients.
- Secure solution - “Nowadays, businesses who employ BYOD are struggling to keep pace with outside devices coming into internal networks, and thus face security compliances and all types of problems,” Carothers said. CounterPath can help businesses ensure security especially in their mobile devices and communications through MDM/EMM (Mobile Device Management/Enterprise Mobility Management), encryption client management, as well as customer BYOD programs.
UC, Collaboration, and Business Communications: What Lies Ahead?
Unified communications and collaboration tools have vastly changed how businesses connect and communicate. No longer are businesses simply relying on their deskphones and physical meetings as a means of collaboration. This doesn't mean, though, that these standard practices are going out of style. "Collaboration is something that doesn’t exactly replace travel or face-to-face interaction; however, users can strengthen their communication experiences and relationships by being able to utilize and share video as a part of meeting," said Carothers.
In order to fully tap the advantages that collaboration solutions bring, enterprises must consider a provider and solution that puts a premium on user experience. This is why CounterPath puts such a strong focus on the user experience across all of its products and solutions. “CounterPath is about delivering services, but focuses on how the user experience finds itself into the call journey”, said Carothers. "The next battleground is collaboration, and the sweet spot is coming now."
For more information on CounterPath and to find out how they are helping to improve business communications and shape the customer journey, visit CounterPath’s website.
CounterPath designs, develops, and supplies innovative VoIP and UC products that are designed to change the face of telecommunications. Their solutions include enterprise OTT, security, collaboration, as well as user experience solutions. CounterPath was founded in 2002 and currently has over 20 million client activations.