Biz 'only as fast as slowest link'

Facing more pressure to retain customer loyalty, businesses should tap unified communication tools to boost service response times and efficiency, Avaya exec says.

SINGAPORE--Efforts to optimize work processes in order to more quickly respond to customers will become increasingly important, says an Avaya executive, who points to a widening gap in customer loyalty where the younger generation is typically more fickle and bombarded with choices.

Noting that businesses are only as fast as their slowest link, Lawrence Byrd, director of collaboration solutions at Avaya, said it was important for organizations to look at how they can speed up their business because "speed depends on the slowest link", he said. "It's no point having a car as fast as a Ferrari, if your tires are flat. What's key is to fix the bottlenecks," Byrd said at the company's Experience Tour 2012 held here Tuesday.

Companies need to look across their supply chain and identify these bottlenecks, he advised. He pointed out that people were usually the slowest factor behind any business process, and this could be remedied through better communication tools or with unified communications.

"Real-time collaboration is key to improving productivity. This will help response times and allow them to make faster decisions and improve time to market," Byrd said. "For example, an employee might be in between meetings with only an hour to spare, but needs to make a decision on a project. With unified communications tools, he will be able to access the key people he needs conveniently to get the data he wants," he added.

TransitLink was one business which took steps to finetune its processes. The government-owned public transport payment services company in 2005 decided to stop outsourcing its contact center operation and reinstated it in-house. TransitLink complemented this with its existing Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) and also integrated feedback channels on its Web site into the contact center.

According to the company, insourcing its contact center helped generate cost savings of about 20 percent to 30 percent. Chandra Segaran, TransitLink's senior vice president for IT infrastructure and business operations, said: "We've also improved our customer satisfaction levels a lot. For instance, last year, our response times increased. More than 86 percent of our calls were answered within 20 seconds, higher than the industry average of about 80 percent. That's also an improvement from a few years ago when we were around 70 percent."

Byrd added that with better response times and service levels, companies would be able to project a more consistent and better brand image.