• Unified Communications

Beginners’ guide to unified communications: All you need to know

Unified Communications is quickly becoming a buzzword in the corporate sector. But what exactly does this technology entail for businesses? Find out how unified communications technology can help catapult your business growth in this complete guide for beginners.

 

In running your business, you could find your corporate communication needs changing rapidly. For instance, although email and fax have been the default medium for sending or receiving a quotation, a growing number of users now prefer instant messaging for urgent matters.

Similarly, cost concerns could force you to swap voice communication platforms for a text-based chat when you need to hold a lengthy dialogue with a new partner or client. It’s more convenient to discuss matters in detail on text-based platforms. This way, clients can easily reread your conversation to recall details.

 

As you can see, many different communication strands are at play here. The question is: how can you tie all of them together seamlessly and intuitively? The answer to this communication conundrum is unified communications (UC). UC solutions let you quickly switch between different platforms by integrating all your communications needs and functions in a unified user interface.

Because of its ease and convenience, unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is predicted to reach US$74.24 billion by 2023.

 

Unravelling the technical jargon of UC

The term “unified communications” can be confusing at first. Business owners often ask, “What form of technology is it?” UC isn’t just one piece of technology; it’s an umbrella term comprising various forms of communications functions and platforms that can be tightly integrated.

Admittedly, it is unhelpful that some sources often use “unified communications” and “unified messaging” interchangeably, as IT PRO notes. The truth is that unified messaging is only one possible component of UC, with many other options coming into play as well. We’ll discuss the full inclusions later on in the article.

Because of the range of its applications and integrations, unified communications does constitute a broad term in itself. Other than instant messaging, UC systems can also include email, voicemail and faxes. Here, the “unified” part of the equation comes in how messages from different mediums are combined in one mailbox for ready access.

You can access this centralised mailbox either through a desktop or mobile device. The multi-device compatibility allows you to tap into a broad array of flexible features, including inbound call screening, live reply and call return. The unified nature of this communication system sheds light on how the wider arrangement of UC also works.

What does a unified communications system include?

There are varying inclusions in service packages, but basic packaged offerings often include these six components:

Voice calls

Phone calls are still a vital customer support channel. Many consumers still prefer reaching out to businesses through voice calls and speaking to a human being instead of an automated machine. This means you can’t let go of call-based support channels if you want to increase your customer satisfaction rates.

A UC system improves your voice call capabilities by leveraging telephony solutions and allowing you to take and make calls over the internet using smartphones, desktops, and other devices.

Unified messaging

UC solutions integrate your email, fax and voicemail in one interfacing software. By consolidating various platforms into one inbox, you’re able to keep an eye on all inbound messages, regardless of which channel they’re coming from. This way, you can ensure that you’re not missing valuable calls from customers, leads and partners.

Presence and instant messaging

Presence is the cornerstone of unified communications. This feature lets you see the availability of whoever you want to talk to and which channel they’re currently active on. Presence capabilities make communication more convenient since you can quickly switch to whichever channel is best for conversing with someone.

The presence feature is often combined with instant messaging platforms, allowing your employees to chat remotely in real-time.

Teleconferencing

The conferencing services included in your package will vary. Most UC solutions companies use web-based teleconferencing tools, but some require you to install specialised hardware. Make sure to ask the unified communications provider about their conferencing requirements before purchasing their services.

Collaboration tools

Most systems integrate collaboration tools, like interactive whiteboards where users can share files, launch presentations and even simultaneously edit documents. These collaboration tools often come with voice call capabilities, so users can talk while working on projects together. This feature allows for more productive collaborative projects, which are essential when managing a remote workforce.

Integrated applications

Integration is another cornerstone of UC. UC solutions can integrate various third-party applications, allowing you to customise your communications system specifically to your business needs. Some common integrations are email, customer relationship management (CRM) software and other API-based programs.

What are the advantages of UC?

Unified comms solutions offer a wealth of business advantages. Here are some of the enterprise-level benefits:

Mobile workers

At any one time during your work hours, you may have employees who are out in the field, carrying out crucial responsibilities away from the office. In this situation, integrating your UC system with multiple devices, including your workers’ personal devices, can significantly improve your operational efficiency.

Especially now, during a global health crisis, most businesses have shifted to remote work arrangements. Many are even considering establishing a hybrid office-home work model permanently, even after the pandemic. UC solutions enable seamless and flexible communications capabilities necessary for maintaining productivity while managing a remote workforce.

Scalability

An especially strong incentive to implementing a UC system would be scalability, making it easier for you to scale your communication infrastructure, depending on your company’s needs. As your firm recruits more workers and opens multiple sites, you can scale the system to expand your operations.

As such, UC solutions are especially beneficial for multi-location businesses, internal corporations and even companies that are only starting to expand their operations.

Broader communications

Furthering your business’ use of UC means having the ability to carefully select various communications methods to meet specific enterprise communication needs. While phone and email are staples of an office communications system, you could augment them by adding features like video calls and presence capabilities.

On top of these three popular advantages, UC also offers lesser-known efficiencies, such as significant cost reductions and increased operational agility.

Who can implement unified communications?

Unified communications can be customised to fit businesses of any size, given its scalability. Small businesses to large enterprises can benefit from this technology as long as they choose the right integrations and applications. We talked more about customising UC around your business needs in our blog, “How to Plan Your Unified Communications Transition.”

Take a look at how unified communications helps businesses of all sizes:

Enterprise communications as a service

It’s easy for communication to become fragmented in large corporations, allowing important messages and conversations to slip by key people. Through UCaaS, you can avoid that inefficiency and confusion by establishing a single communication solution. You can be sure that your voice calls, texts, emails and instant messages reach the right people instantly, eliminating miscommunication.

Another advantage for enterprises is seamless access to information. When details are spread across multiple databases, it’s difficult for your employees to find the most current information. You won’t have this kind of problem with a UC system. Your unified information database is accessible to all your employees, allowing them to retrieve the information they need as long as they have security clearance.

A UC platform is also integral to having a large-scale disaster recovery plan. It makes sure that all your employees and departments stay connected during unexpected crises.

SME unified communications

Small to medium enterprises that are looking to expand can significantly benefit from UCaaS. You’ll have the scalability to grow your customer base, allowing you to open branches in various locations easily. UCaaS is extremely valuable for businesses that manage multi-location operations, such as logistics, construction and even ride-sharing companies.

UC solutions improve not only SMBs’ internal communications but their external comms as well. Prospects and existing customers can reach you on their preferred platforms, making sure you leverage every sales or lead generation opportunity.

Unified communications for small businesses and startups

Many young businesses find it challenging to establish a communications strategy that aligns with their organisational culture. The result is inefficient communication that impedes employees’ performance and productivity. This kind of inefficiency can also get in the way of your customer service, which negatively impacts your satisfaction rates.

With a UC system, small businesses can switch to communications solutions that are time- and cost-efficient. You no longer have to waste time untangling miscommunications or struggling to contact the right people. Plus, UC technology significantly improves your customer support. It gives you the tools you need to win over new buyers and nurture your relationships with your existing customers.

Ultimately, a well-oiled unified communications system offers a wealth of benefits. It creates a technological environment that enables you to reduce costs, increase workplace efficiency and improve your customer experience. UCaaS ensures that you’re well-equipped to grow your business at the pace you want while continuing to meet the demands and expectations of your customers.

If you’d like to learn more about Unified Communications, visit our blog for tips and best practices to maximise this technology’s benefits. For enquiries, contact us at 0333 014 0000 or fill out our online form.