The birth cry of the Internet came about in the U.S. when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) delivered the first data packet between two computers in 1969. That very same ARPANET saw the birth of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) when the first data packet of encoded voice was transmitted in 1974. In recent years, the dawning and proliferation of the information age has seen VoIP truly come into its own.
An Innovation in the Data World
From businesses to the home internet connection, relatively inexpensive high speed internet is allowing VoIP to replace traditional telephone services. In all but the most remote rural areas, sufficient internet speeds are now available, prompting consumers to question the need for both telephone and internet services when internet will serve both voice and data functions.
Affordability and Convenience
In the past there has been resistance to innovations such as VoIP due to cost and the dread of having to get a new telephone number. That is no longer the case. VoIP equipment is highly affordable and often is less costly than even an average smartphone. Further, the cost of transmitting a data packet over long distance is hardly more than the cost to send the same data packet across the room, making VoIP more affordable than traditional long distance telephone services.
In the early days, a VoIP call had to go through a third party because telecommunications companies held a certain level of propriety over the connections. Now, VoIP calls go directly to the recipient, bypassing the middleman and keeping costs low.
Changes in FCC laws now allow phone numbers to be transferred from one service to another. The process of making the change takes just moments, and the service provider is usually happy to do the work in order to get new business. The service itself is has yearly costs comparable to regular monthly cellular phone charges.
Services That Are Part of the Package
Most VoIP packages include long distance as just another service provided for a very low single fee if not provided entirely for free. A number of services once considered to be extras were billed as such but are now being provided by VoIP as a standard package. Some of these standard services provided at little to no additional cost include call forwarding, voicemail, and call waiting.
Marrying VoIP to Apps
VoIP is IP-based and highly adaptable with regard to data handling applications. As a result, VoIP telephony systems are capable of previously unheard of functions and new applications are arriving on the scene every day. From screen sharing to faxing to email, the IP-based world is growing and expanding in capabilities at a mind-boggling rate. With the affordability of VoIP services being realized, what was once thought to be a tool for businesses has taken root in the home.
IT personnel are an integral part of businesses and are instrumental in making sure processes run smoothly by monitoring and ensuring the health of the company’s networks and applications. Until recently, IT professionals primarily performed an internal role, providing services to employees but having little to do with external, customer-facing assignments.
However, that dynamic is changing. As network functions become more integrated with customer-service functions, companies must ensure their IT teams are ready and able to provide customer-facing IT functions. Attracting and retaining IT personnel who can deliver both the critical internal IT service and the customer-facing services necessary in today’s environment can offer a competitive advantage.
Break Away From the Typical IT Mold
When looking for IT personnel who will work well in customer-facing processes, consider candidates who deviate from the typical IT stereotype. IT personnel tend to be introverted and more comfortable working with code than with people.
When identifying internal or external candidates for customer-focused IT roles, seek a different personality type than the typical IT employee. Consider candidates with different skills and personalities that can expand the IT team’s capabilities. Outgoing, passionate, socially focused people will typically function better in customer-centric roles than quiet, shy individuals.
To identify and attract such candidates, examine hiring processes and develop a strategy for meeting the company’s core customer-service requirements. It’s important to show candidates how their contributions will be valued and offer flexibility and opportunities to grow and advance.
Offer Customer-Focused Opportunities
Many IT departments have adopted systems that streamline interactions with the IT department but also tend to eliminate interpersonal interactions that are critical in customer-focused processes.
In order to regain customer-facing skills, companies can offer opportunities for internal IT employees to interact with customers. This might mean visiting customer operations or shadowing customer-facing employees. In addition to sharpening customer-service skills, such opportunities can help IT staff better understand customer needs, requirements, and the relation to the company’s IT systems.
Address Company Culture
While attracting and training customer-focused employees is important, making sure the company’s culture and reputation reflects strong customer-centric values is also critical. Potential candidates are likely to be attracted to companies that are stable, innovative, and willing to take risks. Clearly demonstrating how employee contributions affect customers can motivate candidates to become a part of the team.
Customer-service values should not just be presented to outside candidates but be embraced by internal IT teams, contractors, and business partners. Emphasize the value of both the internal and external customer as well as the critical role the IT team plays in both areas.
Finding, hiring, training, and retaining IT personnel capable of providing traditional internal IT services and customer-facing interactions is a likely key to success. For a successful and long-term fit, companies must not only find the right candidate for the job, but also demonstrate why they should want to be part of the company.