Single Pane in the Ass
Is a single pane of glass the utopia for users? Are we trying to achieve the impossible?
The single pane of glass. If you haven’t heard this expression before, where have you been? Every sales pitch, marketing video and blog piece in the Unified Comms world talks about the single pane of glass.
For the most part, it’s a throwaway phrase that alludes to being able to do every task in one interface. In some cases, this is correct. In other cases, it just isn’t enough to suggest you can make a call from the CRM panel. Users need more!
I really like the expression “embedded comms” when it comes to conversations around getting the most from an application like a CRM. The idea of buying a telephone system or contact centre that genuinely lives in your CRM is the utopia.
No contact centre is the same. But, if you take a typical contact centre scenario, most users will live and breathe their CRM. A customer contacts the business, and 100% of the time, something is used within the CRM. It is the most used application and often treated the worst.
User Experience Is Everything
As a business leader, charged with procuring a new solution for your telephony needs, you need to put yourself in your employee’s shoes. If their current solution is up for review, chances are that it is not performing to the standard you desire. Employees will be thinking
“If I can use my smartphone for literally everything in my consumer life, why isn’t this replicated in my business life?”
And you know what? They are absolutely spot on.
The idea of using one device, one application or one vendor could be called the utopia but really, it’s the expectation. We are so used to great user experiences that we take them for granted. We are addicted to our smartphones; our televisions talk to our virtual assistants and our shopping is predicted by a server in a data centre in the USA.
We are a generation of high demand, which puts high pressure on Unified Comms and Contact Centre vendors. That’s their problem, not yours. A nightmare for the engineering teams that constantly make changes and tweaks mid release. A delight for marketeers that get to write and create videos about this cool stuff that is sneaking into business communications.
For my personal user experience list, I’d like to see: all channels of communication in one window (email, calls, video, instant messages, web chats, social media interactions). The reality of having one view for all these applications, however, is that it just won’t work.
We look to companies like Twitter and LinkedIn because their slick user experience (UX) has had millions of pounds thrown at it. Personally, as a constant LinkedIn and Twitter user, I cannot use Hootsuite to save my life. I am aware of the benefit of Hootsuite and tried to use it time and time again, but I am more productive using them separately. Each user in your business will be different so identifying user personas is crucial. If you can narrow your business down a few groups with similar requirements and preferences, you can go a long way in delighting your employees.
Vendors Getting It Wrong
Are Unified Comms vendors tackling it the right way? Instead of replacing email and embedding it into your telephony console, could they be doing it the other way around? If the CRM isn’t the central hub of the business, the email client usually is. For non-contact centre users, we still heavily rely on email for communications.
NewVoiceMedia and Natterbox both utilise Salesforce to embed their solution. Their CTI applications live natively within Salesforce and depend upon the users desires to delve into email and web chat through Sales Cloud and Service Cloud. Whilst, they are not true omni-channel offerings, they are doing what they set out to do very well.
The other side of the coin is seemingly unscratched. The market is calling out for something that offers more than just click to dial functionality within Outlook. Sure, you can setup a virtual meeting from Outlook, but you still need to flick to Skype for Business or Teams or Webex Teams to actually have the meeting.
What About Microsoft?
We should look to Microsoft for help here. After all, they are undoubtably the biggest name in email. The roadmap for Outlook doesn’t look particularly fancy and is more around Office 365 and pushing Teams. So, unless they are working on something behind closed doors, Teams is the answer to most questions when it comes to Microsoft right now.
Microsoft’s biggest email rival is Google. Unified Comms is baked into the user experience to some extent. It’s easy to see why “Google Houses” don’t stray away from Google apps. Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet and Google Docs all stem from Gmail. The consistent user interface across these mediums make it easy for Google introduce a great user experience when it comes to Unified Comms. A simple lift and shift.
What Is Best?
To find who provides the best experience for your needs is tough. You must first decide whether the single pane of glass approach is best or not. You then need to define just how much you can fit into that pane of glass. It’s one thing moving all your applications into one view, but if they are unworkable, then it is not worth doing.
Best practice dictates a phased approach to discovering your single pane. Choose your hub wisely, be it your CRM, your email client or something else. Start by dropping in elements that are frequently used together such as email and telephony. Once your employees have mastered this and started to deliver bursts in productivity, you can start to add in further elements. Before you know it, you’ll have a shiny but single pane of glass.