Let’s Not Confuse “Collaboration” With “Customer Service”

If you look up the definition of “collaboration,” you will see that it refers to “teamwork” between a group of people working on a common project or issue. The people on the team may be in different locations and may work for different companies, so the means for them to “collaborate” includes methods for communicating person-to-person synchronously (conferencing) and asynchronously (messaging). It also includes the means to exchange information in real time (e.g., during a conference call) or asynchronously with messaging. However, it has been well established that most information workers can work more efficiently alone, rather than always as part of a real-time group meeting.

While such communication functionality is applicable to interactions with customers, the relationship with a customer is not really the same and the benefits are different. So, even though the basic concepts of UC are similar for all types of communications with people, there will be differences in the “use cases’ and the business process applications that will exploit CEBP contacts with people (notifications, alerts).

What organizational teams do to “collaborate,” will not be the same as what customer-facing staff will do with customers, even though it is all about person-to-person contacts and information exchanges. The big difference, of course, is that within a business group, there is common agreement and use of communication technology across the board. With customers, there is no such agreement and, with new mobile communication devices, customer contacts must now be more personalized and flexible. Even automated proactive notifications will have to be individually controllable by the consumers who receive and respond to them.

Mobile consumers, in effect, are no longer a consistent group of customers, all having the same kind of mobile endpoint device. Even more important, however, is the fact that each individual mobile user will be dynamically changing their contact accessibility needs all the time. That means, UC flexibility must also be dynamically controllable by mobile customers as recipients, regardless of what contact initiators do, especially when it comes to “unified messaging.” So, whenever a contact attempt is made to a mobile user with a smartphone or tablet, that recipient must be able to dynamically control the mode of notification, as well as the modes of retrieval and response. (That’s why I always describe UC as being “multi-modal!”)

There are many ways for collaborative teams to exchange information and even to work simultaneously in real time on a common informational target (e.g., diagramming a process, editing a document, etc.) So, we see “collaborative” work including all modes of interaction between people, including situations where team members are focused on dealing with a customer support situation.  However, while a “team” may collaborate between themselves in providing customer service, that doesn’t mean that they are “collaborating” with the customer!

Leave a Reply