What Is Unified Communications & Do You Need It? (7 Benefits)
Unified communications (UC) is a term used in business settings to describe the integration of real-time communication services such as instant messaging, presence information, telephony, video conferencing, and data sharing.
Businesses use UC solutions to improve communication between employees, customers, and partners.
Nowadays, with a need to be available 24/7 and to communicate across different time zones, many businesses are switching to UC solutions, with VoIP platforms paving the way for easy integration.
VoIP platforms allow businesses to unify all their communication channels onto one single platform, which can be easily managed and monitored.
This also means that knowing how to choose a VoIP that works for your business is more important than ever when it comes to unified communications.
In this article, I will discuss unified communications in detail, go over UC’s key benefits and features, and how to know whether your business is ready for UC solutions.
Let’s get right into it.
How Business Communication Has Changed
With business processes requiring that instant messaging happens in real-time, there is a need for solutions that provide more than just one method of communication.
This is where unified communication (UC) comes in.
This enables businesses to use multiple types of communication through a single platform.
Unified communications integrates with all your communication channels, leading to having one platform that allows you to manage and monitor your communications – all while ensuring everyone is on the same page.
This is a significant shift from the traditional business communication model, which often relied on phone calls and email.
While those methods are still popular, they are no longer the only options available, and they are not always the most effective.
What Does Unified Communications Include?
From using Slack and its various alternatives to taking advantage of the functionality Zoom offers to communicate with people across the globe, all of these different applications can be integrated into one platform via UC.
With business communications becoming more complex, managing all the different channels can be challenging, which is why having a UC plan in a business is the way forward.
How Unified Communications Can Benefit Your Business
Here are the benefits that a UC solution can bring to a business.
1. Increased Productivity
Whether you are a service provider or a product-based company, chances are that you have a team of employees who need to be able to communicate with each other daily.
In the past, this would mean setting up a series of telephone calls or even face-to-face meetings.
Nowadays, unified communications integrate with various applications and software to make it easy for employees to communicate with each other.
This also means that file sharing can be accomplished without any effort, a feature that’s crucial in business.
2. Improved Customer Service
Multiple enterprise communication tools help businesses keep in touch with their customers.
From live chat software to customer relationship management (CRM) software, businesses can use UC to provide a better customer experience.
As such, collaboration tools integrated into the UC platform make it easy for employees to work together to resolve customer issues.
3. Better Business Continuity Planning
Various other types of enterprise software communication tools also help with business continuity.
This refers to communication services that keep businesses up and running during times of crisis.
For example, UC can allow employees to work from home or another location if there is a power outage.
Conference call services can also be used to keep employees in touch with each other during a crisis.
4. Enhanced Collaboration
Communications systems provide a forum for employees to work together on projects.
With business applications that enable remote desktop functionality, team messaging, and more, businesses can use UC to improve employee collaboration.
5. Greater Employee Engagement
Using unified communications technology, you’ll also be able to improve the human relationship between everyone in a workplace.
This is done by allowing employees to communicate easily and giving them access to the tools they need to do their job.
Most HR software nowadays comes with some form of UC integration, which can help streamline communication and collaboration within a company.
From tools that allow various personnel to see when others have time off booked to those that give employees the ability to request time off from their manager, HR software with UC integration can help to improve communication and collaboration between employees.
6. Reduced Travel/Commuting Costs
Gone are the days when employees traveled to get to their workplaces.
Today, businesses can save money on travel costs by using UC to hold meetings and conferences virtually.
Virtual conference platforms make it easy for those not in the same geographical location to participate in meetings.
7. Increased ROI
Finally, one of the main benefits of adopting communications services that bring everyone together is the increased ROI.
Whether providing on-to-go devices to employees that enable them to be more productive outside of the office or having document management systems that allow quick and easy collaboration between team members, businesses that invest in UC solutions tend to see a significant return on their investment.
Key Features Of Unified Communications
Deciding to go for unified communications solutions is not always the easiest sell for businesses, as it generally requires a fair bit of investment.
Knowing the features of unified communications will help you understand how this technology can be advantageous for your business and thus make a more informed decision.
VoIP And SIP Trunking
While people are generally familiar with VoIP (Voice over IP), not as many are aware of SIP trunking.
SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, is a signaling protocol for VoIP telephone systems.
The functionality on offer here is that users can connect to an IP network in real-time and make/receive phone calls.
With interactive voice calling and audio conferencing features, the user experience can be significantly enhanced.
If one wants to invest in multi-line phone systems, SIP trunking is a great option.
Web And Video Conferencing
With unified communication in place, not only can you listen to what somebody is saying, but also, video calling allows for face-to-face communication.
This interactive communication can be highly beneficial for businesses as it helps build relationships and trust – whether it’s running internal meetings or even during external communication.
You can also use video conferencing software to share whiteboards, files, and screens during a call, making collaboration much more accessible.
This can be an invaluable tool for a small business that depends on remote teams to get the job done.
Also, larger enterprises can find the features extremely useful for conducting training sessions or large-scale meetings.
Desktop integration refers to connecting various apps that form part of a workflow.
This technology enables team members to access needed tools without leaving their desktop environment.
Many meeting management software platforms offer this type of functionality, which does bring a lot to the table.
Mobile Device Support
The concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace.
Employees use their own mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, for work purposes.
It is, therefore, crucial that any UC solution has mobile device support.
This way, employees can access the tools and information they need regardless of where and on which device they’re working.
Call Tracking And Management
For those providing any client-facing service, having a phone number that people can call is essential.
With voice-over internet protocol becoming more popular, it is also essential to have a solution that allows the right people to take the appropriate actions when calls come in.
Features like real-time communication, call routing, voicemail systems, call recording, and even receiving inbound SMS enable businesses to manage their customers more efficiently.
A unified messaging as part of a call management system can significantly affect customer service levels.
To this end, various call tracking solutions are available on the market, further enhancing the features businesses can take advantage of.
Contact Center Integration
Integration is critical for UC solutions that need to work as part of a system, such as in the case of a contact center.
From the user interface to the ability to streamline phone calls and screen sharing, the right contact center integration tools can make a big difference.
Call center software also comes with various APIs that can connect with software already used in a business, making it easier to start UC.
Is Unified Communications Right For Your Business?
Here are some top questions to ask if you’re trying to determine if UC is a good investment for your business at its current stage.
What Are My Business Needs And Objectives?
Understanding your needs and objectives is the first step in deciding if UC suits you.
If you need a solution that can help improve communication and collaboration within your company, then UC may be a good fit.
What Are The Current Pain Points In My Communication Infrastructure?
Change usually happens because the current system isn’t working well.
From desk phones that make it challenging to transfer calls, to non-existent team collaboration, having a clear picture of your pain points will help you understand if UC can address them.
Do I Have Remote Or Mobile Employees?
If you have a remote workforce and want to focus on ensuring that remote work is as effective as possible, then UC can help.
While having on-premises solutions can be helpful for some businesses, remote workers need UC systems that can provide them with the same level of communication and collaboration as if they were in the office.
If you invest in suitable systems, your workers will be more productive doing their job, and the customer experience will improve.
How Important Is Collaboration To My Business?
Really extracting an honest answer to this question can help you understand if UC is a good investment for your company.
While the terms collaboration and unified communication sound nice on paper, not all businesses need these features.
Understanding how your team collaborates and if there are areas that can be improved will help you determine if UC is right for you.
Am I Looking To Improve Customer Service Or Reduce Costs?
A unified solution won’t be cheap to implement.
This means you must be sure that UC’s benefits will outweigh the costs, ideally both in the short and long term.
It’s good to note that unified communications and collaborations will increase efficiency and productivity when implemented correctly and over the long run.
This generally leads to cost savings.
Would Integrating New Technology Cause Too Much Disruption?
Understanding how much of a disruption implementing UC would cause is an important consideration.
UC platforms won’t be adopted immediately, so figuring out how long it would take for your team to get used to the new system is essential.
Also, understanding if such a disruption would be worth the investment needs to be considered.
That said, with a UC platform being able to improve communication and collaboration, as well as provide other benefits to one’s business, a minor interruption might be worth considering.
Costs Of Unified Communications
Considering the high costs associated with unified communications, it’s essential to consider what your expenses would come down to if you were to implement a unified communications model.
The Cost Of The Hardware And Software
From several devices at various endpoints, to headsets and business phone systems, a lot of hardware goes into setting up unified communications.
Moreover, video conference devices range in price based on various factors such as quality, features, and brand.
The software is also an essential part of the cost equation as it ties everything together and makes it possible to use the various features.
The Cost Of Installation And Maintenance
A UCC (Unified communications and collaboration) system must be installed by people who understand the hardware and software involved.
Telephone and computer systems must be configured appropriately for the unified communications system to work correctly.
If you have a softphone system installed (where you can use your computer as your primary phone), it’s essential to ensure that sound quality is good enough for business calls.
The Cost Of Training Employees
Having multiple enterprise communications channels means training is another cost to consider when implementing unified communications.
Ideally, you want the people who install your system to train your team on how to use it to get the most out of the features.
However, if this isn’t possible, ensuring that someone on your team is familiar with the system and can train others as needed is essential.
The Cost Of Additional Bandwidth
Unified communications systems generally require a lot of bandwidth.
This is especially true if you use web conferencing or other high-bandwidth features.
If you don’t have enough bandwidth, you may need to upgrade your internet service or get a separate line for the unified communications system.
These costs must be considered when implementing unified communications in your business.
What is Unified Communications – FAQ
Which Companies Are Considered The Best In The Unified Communications Arena?
RingCentral, 8×8 and Cisco are considered some of the best in the UC arena.
All three companies offer reliable and feature-rich platforms that meet the needs of businesses of all sizes.
Which Industries Would Most Benefit From Implementing A Uc Platform?
Healthcare, manufacturing, and retail are just a few industries that would benefit most from implementing a UC platform.
What Is A PBX In The Context Of Unified Communications?
A PBX, or private branch exchange, is a phone system that helps businesses to manage their telecommunication needs.
In the context of UC, a PBX can be used to connect employees who are spread out across different locations.
When it comes to unified communications as a service (UCAAS), the term can cover a broad range of definitions and use cases.
From integrating your email and chat platforms to creating a centralized customer information database, unified communication can help.
But when it comes down to it, the primary purpose of UC is to make doing business more manageable by breaking down communication barriers and making it simpler to connect with customers and colleagues.
Knowing the features your company needs and the benefits various UC solutions can provide will help you decide if this technology is right for you.
Do you use a unified communications system in your business?
What benefits have you found?
Let me know in the comments below.
Further reading on AdamEnfroy.com: Having a side-by-side comparison of UCaaS and VoIP can help you understand which solution works best for your specific business needs.
In addition, understanding how a VoIP caller can change your business is crucial in the modern world.
If you are not using VoIP, you are likely losing out on cost savings and features that could quickly add up in your business.
Having a VoIP number brings various benefits to businesses. From call forwarding and HD audio to voicemail transcription, the list of functionalities that can help companies save time and money is quite long.
Finally, check out this Ringcentral Vs. Zoom comparison to learn more about these VoIP platforms and how they can help your business communication needs.
Last Updated on February 20, 2023 by Adam Enfroy