In case you haven’t noticed, the cloud is sort of a big deal. This business tool, tech concept, and marketing buzzword has become an omnipresent force in companies and consumer markets everywhere. Few technologies would leave an apocalyptic wasteland behind if they vanished off the face of the earth tomorrow, but there’s at least some chance the cloud would.
That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Cloud collaboration and communication tools are inherently social in nature, and if a device facilitates communication of any kind, cloud technologies likely serve as the backbone and provide most of the vitally important features.
Here are a few ways the cloud is transforming businesses at all levels:
A Unified Experience
Speaking of buzzwords, the increasingly popular term “omnichannel” certainly fits the bill. There’s significant meaning — and utility — behind the buzz. This is especially true in the realm of customer service, where cloud-based CRM solutions allow businesses to remember everything about their interactions. You understand the tremendous power these tools hold if you’ve ever complained to a company on social media and followed up on the problem over the phone with little to no re-explanation.
And that’s just scratching the surface of what cloud collaboration tools can do to improve your customers’ experience. Being able to log and assimilate data from numerous disparate sources (phone calls, emails, social media, texts…) represents a longer memory for your business, an easier job for your service reps, and a quick way to score brownie points with customers themselves. As one Salesforce piece noted, this can be as simple as retaining notes and other customer information for long-term relationship management. For other companies, cloud-based tools can open the door to product improvement, opinion monitoring, and more responsive sales service.
In any event, the operative term is “collaboration,” working with customers and each other to provide faster fixes, better support, and a vastly improved experience. Consistency is now a baseline expectation in all business settings, and woe be unto those organizations that make customers explain their problem for the 10th time over the phone.
Consistency, Cloud Collaboration, and Your Business
However, don’t think collaborative tools are only useful on the customer’s side of the counter. Mobility, an ever-important concept in businesses both large and small, is built almost entirely on the back of cloud apps. Whether the enterprise mobile apps your office uses are off-the-shelf software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools or full-on, for solutions integrated with your communications system and with infrastructure to match, there’s a good chance the cloud’s social nature already powers a lot of your interactions with customers.
As with the customer experience talk up top, consistency is the name of the game here. Employees don’t want to use a different project or workflow management tool for every platform they work from. The sheer number of the average professional stares at on a daily basis would make managing communications a full-time job.
Cloud collaboration tools also do a great job with the “work” part of working, providing more consistency in the form of shared workspaces. Although you might not classify editing a document a coworker wrote as a social experience, using a tablet to make edits on a live document while the colleague writes away from her desktop PC — possibly while using a builet-in chat program — is inherently social, even though there’s no actual face-to-face time. This common example of collaboration-over-distance can also boost productivity, of course. When employees can perform important collaborative tasks anywhere, they don’t need to touch home base to implement that quick revision or provide key feedback.
Vendors: The In-Between
An injection of cloud collaboration can improve vendor relationships, too, effectively allowing independent companies to work as a single organization. Here, the social aspect of cloud apps largely comes down to the technology’s ability to bridge distances. Used to complement the usual slate of business-critical communication tools, such as conference calls and video conferencing (many of which operate in the cloud themselves), cloud apps can bring an entirely new dimension to collaboration efforts. Going back to the document editing example, it’s far easier to hop in a shared workspace with a colleague or vendor across the country than it is to relay needs or information by voice alone.
Shared access to other tools offer similar distance-closing benefits. The rise of all-in-one conferencing solutions, where participants log in to an internet portal and actively collaborate as if they were in the same room, is one example of this. A shared tracking and reporting tool that allows all parties in a business relationship to access the same data is another.
At this point, cloud technology isn’t a burgeoning set of solutions or just a high-potential way for businesses to provide consistent experiences — it’s an established thing. Even then, don’t call it old news. The cloud still has impressive tricks up its sleeve, and the majority of them come with the same goal of making operational inconsistency and even physical distance a thing of the past. Cloud technology does all this by providing the same experience and information to every user. If that doesn’t sound impressive, it’s only because we’re spoiled by all the cool things the cloud does for us already.
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