Confusing and costly. That sums up the stereotypical view of enterprise communications. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. In the last few years, unified communications as a service (UCaaS) has come into its own, helping business owners to develop less expensive and more intuitive ways of communicating with clients and collaborating with co-workers.
The idea behind hosted UCaaS is to bring video conferencing, Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP), instant messaging, SMS, screen sharing, and collaboration tools together as one. Integrations bring so many benefits: for example, RingCentral enables you to drop voice recordings into Salesforce, which is a great time-saver.
Consider the tremendous volume of business communications that CIOs need to handle, then add the quickly rotating digital formats, and the wide range of device types in common use today. Workers are moving targets with shifting preferences to fit their unpredictable routines. They have come to expect an easy-to-use, consistent, consumer-grade user experience (UX) — preferably from a single, customizable interface.
Employees also want the convenience of ‘bringing their own device’ (say a MacBook) instead of using the additional, often unnecessary technology provided by their company.
That’s before adding localization and real-time synchronization among desktop, laptop, smartphone, and tablet devices. No easy feat. However, UCaaS now presents a deployment method for delivering all of these features — and many more besides — via the cloud. Let’s look at some of the implications, and find out what these services can provide in terms of real business value.
Although UCaaS has its roots in VoIP, it goes much further. Effective communication as a service promises to deliver smooth, secure, and affordable collaboration — across several channels (voice, text, and video). It must be enabled on different devices, anywhere the user requires access. Some providers offer a built-in CRM, allowing employees to share one view of the customer.
It also vastly simplifies otherwise tricky technical maneuvers. For instance, changing the routing of an inbound call takes just a few clicks with this type of system.
What the enterprise needs most is a simplified user experience, with cost savings as just one benefit. UCaaS can make for better-informed decision making, more efficient operations, and improved customer engagement.
UCaaS offers impressive resilience; after all, since it operates in the cloud, you can stay connected even in the event of a grave natural disaster.
Getting Down to VoIP
Businesses continue to ditch PBX telephony systems and make their move to VoIP solutions, attracted by the prospect of slashing their total cost of ownership. When there is no need for on-premise PBX hardware, support, and maintenance, you can expect a drastic reduction in monthly phone line costs.
In IP telephony, security is an issue that needs to be addressed. But what’s convenient here is that it’s cloud-based and digital, so it can be integrated with other digital communications, including email, texting, and videoconferencing.
The Rise of Texting
Strangely enough, this trend is often ignored when commentators discuss the advent of UCaaS. It’s too easy to forget that business communications extend way beyond voice. In the workplace, texting has become the de facto method of communication for millions of employees. According to eWeek’s own research, over 80% of people were already using text messaging for business by 2016.
Text messaging has incredible engagement and ROI statistics. This year, researchers found that text messages received a response in just 90 seconds on average. SMS advertising apparently converts to a purchase 50% of the time. In fact, the study established that text messaging brings way higher engagement and ROI than email.
It was found that the typical consumer has 96 unread emails sitting in their inbox — but only 0.5 unread text messages — at any one time. Amazingly, the average response time for a text message is 60 times faster than that for email.
Making the Upgrade
Fortunately, turnkey software is available to text enable existing landline telephones. Text enabled toll free numbers are also possible, meaning that it’s easier than ever for companies to kickstart business texting.
The attractiveness of business texting is clearly reflected in recent adoption statistics. For one, Juniper Research reported that SMS business messaging traffic hit around 3.5 trillion messages in 2020; rising from 3.2 trillion the year before.
Of course, modern CIOs struggle with quality of service (QoS) issues, data management, and ever-changing privacy requirements. Often these complications span multiple countries or even continents. That’s another area where UCaaS plays a helpful role.
With UCaaS, you can more easily figure out when you’re using more bandwidth and make fast decisions on how to allocate your resources more effectively. What hours of the day are your staff most likely to be wielding their collaboration tools, and when do they make VoIP calls more often? Are there departments that use one service more often than another?
Identifying peak utilization times will lessen the risk of quality issues (latency or dropped calls, say) due to a service that’s stretched too thin.
Unified Communications: A Summary
For the CIO, the emergence of UCaaS means there is no need for massive upfront capital investment in hardware. The provider’s data centers allow for on-demand scalability and built-in redundancy — meaning that business continuity is assured. Services are fast (low latency), dependable, and in many instances more robust and secure than the ancient patchwork systems they are replacing.
It’s a dream for CIOs, as they only have to engage with a single vendor. Billing processes are simple, consolidated across geographies and different services. There is just one enabler for all communications: voice, text, video, and more. It cannot get any easier.