By Ralf Ebbinghaus, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Swyx at unified communications vendor

The ubiquitous nature of popular applications such as Skype and Microsoft’s Instant Messenger (IM) has made most of us familiar with ‘presence’ based technologies. These applications enable anyone who is signed up, to view who is on-line and off-line. However this simple facility has now become outdated, as unified communications (UC) and collaboration technology has extended boundaries of presence to become a more serious business proposition.

For example, whilst basic IM apps tell you whether a user is ‘available’, ‘away’, ‘busy’ or ‘out to lunch’, rich presence through UC goes further, by using signaling information to provide more in-depth knowledge about people that you may wish to communicate with; all via a single graphical user interface.

The result is that it is now possible to gather information from several sources to provide ‘richer’ presence information on the availability of individuals, groups or departments whether they are in or out of the office.

Here are six examples of how this can help a business become more productive and therefore more profitable:

1.Support multi-site operations both nationally and internationally

We have all played the game of ‘telephone tag’ within our organisations. This is bad enough when we are operating from just one site, but this frustration is amplified when your operation has multiple sites around the country and/or has international branches. Rich presence eliminates this instantly, by letting you know whether a contact is ‘away’, ‘busy’, or ‘available. Furthermore by drawing information from additional external sources such as their electronic calendar you can also integrate their status according to whether the person is in a meeting, on holiday and so on.

2.Improve customer service

Keeping customers happy is paramount to any business. When they call with an issue they expect it to be resolved there and then, not to be called back whilst someone is found to deal with it. Presence combined with intelligent call routing can completely resolve this issue as the receptionist knows exactly who is available and whom to route the call to.

3.Enable home or remote workers to integrate seamlessly into the office environment

In the past, organisations may have been reluctant to incorporate home or remote working as normally this involved using two or more different communications platforms that were not integrated. For example if an employee was working from home or from another location it was impossible to connect them to a client or colleague without dialing another number and hoping they would be there. However, with rich presence you can see immediately when and how you can communicate with the remote employee. This makes it much easier to chat or set up virtual ‘face-to-face’ meetings between colleagues and customers regardless of their location.

4.Make your sales team more effective

In addition to the remote working benefits mentioned above, applications, such as SwyxMobile, extend the benefits of rich presence information to mobile devices such as iPhones. If members of your sales team are ‘on the road’ their status can still be viewed in the same way as if they were in the office.

5.Encourage remote collaboration between colleagues and customers

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of rich presence is how you can combine presence information with applications that allow colleagues and customers to communicate remotely in different ways. These options can now include high resolution video and audio conferencing, application sharing and innovations such as webinars and webcasts.

6.Hire employees on merit rather than location

All of the benefits above highlight that location is no longer a barrier to managing business. Employees can be in the office, work from home or be somewhere in between. The natural extension of this is that location is no longer a barrier to employment either, so that dependent on your business needs you can hire the best employees without concerning yourself with where they live.

Which companies are best suited to rich presence?

Rich presence is a valuable business tool for any company that needs to know how best to contact their employees regardless of their location. Of course it is easy to see these benefits for organisations that have more than one office, or has mobile workers, but in fact any company regardless of size will improve their productivity, be more available to customers and prospects and reduce their overall communications costs by using this technology.

About Swyx

Swyx (www.swyx.com) offers a clear introduction to ‘rich presence’ and how it can deliver increased productivity and enhanced customer service.