When you think about it, most of our modern technology is built to bring us closer together. Communication has been the driving force for many seismic technological shifts, from the advent of the telephone to the current state of the internet.
For businesses, taking advantage of this technology is vital to stay competitive in today’s markets. If you’re not embracing the latest and greatest assets, you could be falling behind. When it comes to communication, unified communications (UC) are the best option for companies, both large and small.
So, with that in mind, we want to dive deeper into the world of UC – what it is, how it works, and how it can benefit your business.
What are Unified Communications?
Like most technology being used today, the backbone of UC lives within the cloud. Rather than using hardware or analog connections, companies can deploy a variety of communication channels to serve different needs. Some examples of these platforms can include:
- Instant Messaging (Live Chat)
- Video Calling
- Voice Messaging
In the old days, if you wanted to set up these channels within an office (or multiple buildings), it was costly and inefficient. For example, you had to run phone lines to individual desks or units within the office. During the early days of the internet, you also needed different lines for your computers.
As you can imagine, it is both exhausting and time-consuming to try and manage a variety of hardware and software solutions. Imagine having to set up a business account for every unique communication channel you used. That’s where unified communications come in.
Now, with the benefit of cloud technology, all of your communication needs are centralized into one product or service. The most common iteration of this is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).
While we listed a few of the tools you may use in your business, UC can go above and beyond the basics. Here are a few additional examples of channels that you can incorporate into your communication plan.
- Social Media – both posting new content and replying to comments
- SMS/Texting – text from a mobile device or your computer
- Conference Calling – utilize video, voice, and text simultaneously across offices
- Fax – send faxes from your computer to a fax machine, and vice versa
- Message and Voice Forwarding – send calls to a mobile phone through the cloud
Overall, the core objective of unified communications is to ensure that every channel is managed and maintained by a single entity. By covering all of these options under one umbrella, your business can run much more efficiently and smoothly at all times.
The Advantages of Deploying a Unified Communications Strategy
Although the highlights of a UC system are numerous, so many businesses are not taking advantage of it yet. Just in case you weren’t inspired by seeing what all can be incorporated into UC, let’s break down the different benefits, one by one.
The fact is that everyone has a preferred method of communication. For some, it’s a phone call; for others, it’s texting. By having so many options at your fingertips, you can choose the right one to suit your needs.
Even better, you don’t have to worry about disparate workflows interrupting your business. If one employee favors instant messaging, UC can enable that worker to translate text to talk so that those who prefer voicemails will get an audio clip. Not only that, but the text can be sent out via email or SMS, as well.
Another way that unified communications help create better workflows is that you can get access to all of your different tools on virtually any device. In the old days, you could only send a fax when you were at the machine, and phone calls had to take place on an actual phone. With UC, a smartphone or tablet can handle everything. This way, mobile or remote workers have access to each communication channel at all times.
Faster and More Efficient Collaboration
If you’ve ever been involved in an email thread or group chat, you know that things can get out of control quickly, particularly when dealing with more than six individuals. Part of the problem is that everyone’s responses are limited to the medium you’re using, which can make it challenging for everyone’s voice to be heard. Not only that, but notes and vital details can get buried in the thread.
With UC, collaboration is much easier and more comfortable for everyone involved. Rather than being trapped in a group text or chat, individuals can send and receive messages however they like. Also, it’s much more efficient to break off and start side discussions as necessary, all without losing information or missing out on critical details.
Take conference calls, for example. Traditionally, these calls were made on a phone line, which meant that voice was the only option. Meeting members would sit around a table, trying to listen to a tiny speaker in the middle of the table. This setup is highly inefficient and can lead to a variety of problems, including dropped calls, static-laden connections, and misunderstandings.
With unified communications, conference calls are so much better. Not only can video chatting be incorporated, but users can chat via instant messaging, and the whole call can be recorded for later viewing. Rather than scribbling notes in a ledger, conference members can get everything in a convenient package. Also, individuals can share data on these calls, such as PowerPoint presentations or graphics.
When it comes to collaboration, there are no boundaries anymore. Workers from across the room, across the building, or across the country can communicate instantly, using a variety of methods. Delays and bottlenecks are a thing of the past.
Better Customer Service
These days, consumers demand more from businesses, particularly when talking about communication. Unfortunately, many small companies that don’t have a UC strategy in place are missing out on tons of potential. Here are a few examples of how UC can make your business more customer-centric.
Social Media Presence
Before, you had to make a point to spend time on different social sites to see what people are saying and how they are interacting with your page. With UC, you can get notified every time someone DMs your business or comments on a post. This will enable you to be more engaged, which leads to higher customer satisfaction.
Also, keep in mind that apps like Facebook Messenger are crucial when communicating with your audience. For example, if a user has a question related to your business (i.e., hours of operation), he or she can message you directly. With the right UC in place, you can be more responsive to those users.
Live Chat/Customer Support
If you have any kind of support system for your customers, then you need to utilize live chat. While an email address and phone number are still viable options, more and more consumers expect to have instant messaging available as well.
One of the wonderful things about UC is that you can incorporate chatbots into your system. With the right UCaaS provider, you can save time and money by letting bots handle user queries, classifying them, and sending them to the right personnel. In some cases, the bot may be able to satisfy a customer’s needs by itself, removing your labor costs altogether.
Better Response Rate
We already discussed how UC can help you stay engaged on social media, but the fact is that it can help you be more responsive across all communication channels. For example, if you’re out of the office, calls can be forwarded to your smartphone, rather than going to voicemail.
Additionally, you can respond to emails, texts, and voicemails remotely, as well. If necessary, you can pass off communication to another employee so that the customer isn’t left waiting.
Overall, if you want to provide better customer service, unified communication is a critical tool for your business.
Finally, when you deploy the right UC system, your business will operate much more smoothly. Here are a few ways that can happen.
- Remote Workers – the average American spends about 19 days stuck in traffic getting to and from work. That’s time that could be spent working, not to mention the reduced stress of staying home instead. Unified communications enable your workers to be remote without losing productivity.
- Simpler Data Backup – in the old days, transferring files from one computer to the next was a pain. With UC, you can backup all of your information to the cloud, making it accessible to everyone at any time. No more email attachments or USB drives.
- Improved Security – a data breach can be disastrous for your business. Unfortunately, if you have multiple disparate communication channels, it’s much easier for hackers to gain access. UC ensures that you can secure your networks instantly, rather than having to do so piece by piece.
- Scaling – adding new offices or employees to your roster is super easy with UC. Rather than having to invest in infrastructure or new devices, everything is software-based, enabling users to get online in minutes, not hours.
Contact Us Today For a Consultation
When it comes to unified communications as a service, you need to make sure that your provider has all of the tools necessary for your business. Call us to find out more and see how we can improve your operations.