Is Skype finally ready for call centres?

Why can’t I use Skype at work? This is a question that I first asked back in 2004.

Why can’t I use Skype at work? This is a question that I first asked back in 2004. I just love Skype and use it extensively at home — why can’t I use this in the office?

Having been an early, early adopter of VoIP technology and user of Net2Phone, and having suffered through the ‘mechanical’ sounding voice, I was ready.

But the answer I heard back was that Skype is not business quality and not secure enough. Then over the years we all started to use VoIP through Cisco and other technology vendors.

At home we have all progressed from Skype to Facetime. Such voice and video calling options are everywhere and we can use Viber, Google Talk, Whatsapp, We Chat and others to make such calls.

Clearly the compression technologies have improved but it bugs me why can’t we have business use of Skype?

NICE + Skype

Earlier this year, Skype for Business was integrated with the voice recording standard in corporates – that being NICE. This integration enables enterprises to record and capture incoming and outgoing calls.

Is this the last barrier for corporate telephony? This was clearly a major hurdle and we have to record calls for compliance reasons. My question is – are we going to see Skype become the replacement of these large proprietary call centre tech?

It should be noted that this month that Skype was judged by to be the best video conferencing software based on user reviews. Clearly they have their act together.

But let me highlight two features that Skype has out of the box, that are wow factors and start to make it even more compelling:

- Skype has group video for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

- Skype has realtime language translation for voice and text

Just imagine, the business value added from having an in-built translator service. Pardon the pun, these are really Nice features.

Ultimate customer experience

Should a corporate take the punt on Skype as their mainstream voice approach, they may be able to build an ultimate customer experience. One of my pet hates is that we in corporate world have forced customers into that experience we have designed for them. They have to make contact with us using corporate chat tools and so on.

My analogy is that users are in one room and we in corporate have been in a different room. Then in the name of a better customer experience we make them interact with us, but only with tools that we have chosen.

The ultimate customer experience is to engage where customers are already at, in this case Skype or whenever they are.

We bank — We Chat

Let’s take another example: In China, we already see that We Chat is doing this with banking. Many traditional banks have been forced to embrace We Chat as a customer channel.

You can use We Chat to do all your banking, take out a loan, transfer money to friends etc. It is exactly that idea of being in the room where your customers are already.

It is interesting to note that We Chat is running its own rollout in South Africa, which is also an English-speaking market. I would suggest that we watch this space and be really surprised if they don’t expand this pilot into other global markets.

The tide to IP telephony

There are a number of IP telephony players that have emerged in the global market and they have entered a crowded space where corporates have significant multi-million-dollar investments.

The traction that these organisations have achieved has been mixed, and that’s not a function of their features or the quality of the technology. Frankly, it is an embarrassing situation when you have to write off an existing asset. That plus the fact that the potential customer disruption is significant has meant that progress has been slow.

But now, in the shadow of this progress by offerings like Skype it is now feasible for this approach to co-exist with existing investments. In my view the tide is starting to turn.

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