What are the benefits of Unified Communications (UC)?
A Unified Communications solution is comparable to a “regular” business phone system in much the same way an iPhone is comparable to a 1990s Motorola bag phone. There’s really no comparing the two, and the list of benefits of the newer technology can get quite long.
Needless to say, anyone looking to switch from an outdated phone system to a Unified Communications solution will find plenty of reasons to make the switch.
The primary benefits of switching to a Unified Communications solution are:
Reduced costs & Increased revenue
Better customer service
We’ll go further in detail into each of those benefits, but first let’s go over what Unified Communications actually is.
(Or skip down to the benefits of UC)
The quick version of what Unified Communications is
In short, UC offers the competitive advantage of having a single system to manage multiple tools, such as phone, video conferencing, instant messaging, voicemail, email, fax, customer service, and more.
Think of it as the Swiss Army knife of communications.
This makes businesses more productive and helps smaller companies take advantage of features that make them appear larger and more competitive.
Download the UC Cheat Sheet to learn all the basics of Unified Communications.
Interest in Unified Communications continues to rise
Results from the Second Annual Unified Communications Market Trends study, from CompTIA, showed that:
“Four out of five businesses perceive additional value in the proposition of Unified Communications. Large and medium sized companies and those with a higher proportion of telecommuting workers are most bullish.”
Similarly, 85 percent of those surveyed indicated that UC, or communications and collaboration solutions, are getting equal, if not more, dollars from annual IT budgets compared to other technology priorities.
Seth Robinson, director, technology analysis, CompTIA summarized the findings:
“Organizations have a clear vision of what they expect to gain from unified communications - greater employee productivity, reduced costs and a means to improve customer engagement.”
Why are more businesses using Unified Communication solutions?
The popularity of Unified Communications among businesses can be attributed in large part to the fact that it “levels the playing field” for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs).
Unified Communication solutions make it possible for SMBs to do things and manage trends that were once considered to only apply to larger organizations.
Specifically, the two most recent trends driving Unified Communications adoption include:
- Mobility – the requirement for a communications system to more seamlessly integrate a corporate office with its mobile or remote workers; and
- BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) – the need for an organization’s communications system to work with employees’ personal devices that are being used with or in place of standard, IT-approved, corporate devices (smart phones and tablets being the most common devices).
Businesses are now using more tools and better technology for their operations (email, CRM, customer service, etc.) and workers are becoming less and less tied to a desk. Regular old phone systems don’t cater to either of those issues, so Unified Communications is the only “next step” that makes sense for modern businesses looking for a phone system.
While there is a succinct list of features and benefits that organizations seek from any advanced telephony solution, there is also a fear among SMBs of sacrificing the status quo for a more sophisticated UC solution.
“Every company, no matter what type or size of your business, is reluctant to change or lose a capability,” says Dan Ribar, CIO of 1st Guard Corporation, a specialty truck insurer based out of Venice, Florida.
In contrast, there is a significant upside to an organization when implementing a UC solution, and most of the common fears are un-realized when identifying the right solution.
If executed properly, the primary benefits of implementing UC as a total telecommunications solution include:
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to Unified Communications is the amount of money it can save businesses. Simply put, Unified Communications is a more advanced technology that operates using more cost-effective resources, and those savings are passed along to the businesses that use Unified Communication solutions.
Unified Communications allow your business to improve sales processes, provide better customer service, and simply offer a superior overall communication experience, which ultimately drives more revenue for your organization.
As your company reduces the number of individual systems used for various types of communication, your business is able to operate more efficiently. Plus the cost savings (above) you’ll experience with Unified Communications will also contribute to making business more efficiency.
Better customer service
No matter what industry you’re in, technology advances have left customers and communities expecting a high level of customer service. Unified Communications give your business the ability to provide this level of cutting-edge customer service so you can meet and exceed expectations.
Five Reasons to Consider an Upgrade to UC
Why should your business consider upgrading an existing phone system?
If you have a small to medium-sized business (SMB), there are critical advantages that you can, and should, expect when implementing the right UC solution.
These five key benefits are helping drive the strong adoption rate of UC by businesses, today:
1. Ability to do more with less - with a solution that is easily managed
The ability to implement any technology that provides enhanced functionality while also being both affordable and relatively simple to manage is particularly important to smaller businesses.
As expected, smaller organizations typically have fewer or more limited resources when it comes to budgets, staffing, and technology. A UC solution is especially appealing because it enables the organization to operate as a bigger business, but without the same costs.
UC is increasingly recognized as a technology that allows SMBs to take advantage of proven increases in productivity and functionality while realizing significant savings.
2. Connect the growing mobile and remote workforce by incorporating mobility
With workers becoming more and more mobile, it’s increasingly important for remote and mobile workers to be able to access the same phone system features, regardless of whether they’re working from a desktop or a mobile device.
UC solutions make it easy to stay connected to customers and prospects from any location, and from any device. They also provide flexibility in managing off-site employees, using features like presence and conferencing, and having additional monitoring capabilities.
3. Saving money on overall operating costs
One of the greatest benefits of implementing the right UC solution is taking advantage of the cost savings it provides. This includes both savings on the initial cost of the system, as well as savings on the long-term costs that leads to a good return on investment.
To achieve the greatest opportunities for savings, it’s important to understand how to accurately compare vendor quotes. It’s easy to look at multiple quotes from UC vendors and assume that the final cost quoted includes the same parameters, but not all UC solutions are created equal, and not all UC vendors can offer the same cost savings.
To get a true “apples-to-apples” comparison of vendor quotes, SMBs need to be aware of key differences in quotes that can add thousands of dollars to the cost of implementing UC solutions – both in near-term and long-term costs, and in both hard and soft costs.
For example, many vendors offer quotes for base features, but the business-critical features that an SMB needs, and the the features that make UC so useful – like mobility and third-party integration, require an additional fee.
Licensing fees, maintenance, and upgrade costs also often drive up costs down the road. To avoid these expensive add-ons, compare across vendors for biggest savings potential on overall operating costs in key areas.
4. Gaining uplift in customer service capabilities
The right UC solution should be more than a phone system, it should be a better communications system that helps you improve your customers' experience with your business. A quality UC solution allows SMBs to serve customers more effectively, using features such as call queues and IVRs to handle every call with care.
SMBs should be able to use a UC solution to know more about every incoming call, in order to route each call appropriately, ensuring there are no more missed calls or lack of visibility.
5. Moving beyond basic functionality
Too often, SMBs evaluate new technologies based on whether or not the system can meet the organization’s current needs in regards to both basic features included with the technology as well as the current size and structure of the business. That type of decision can cost an SMB thousands of dollars in future upgrade costs when choosing a business phone system.
When considering “future expansion,” that term may not mean something as extensive as expanding physical locations; it could be as simple as adding or moving an employee. The right UC solution allows SMBs to opt for a flexible system that provides extended functionality and that will grow with the business.
How Can a Phone System Give You a Competitive Advantage?
Here’s a quick video going over a few simple ways Unified Communications can help you grow your business:
Research from analysts confirm that there are common expectations businesses have when upgrading or investing in a new UC solution. When these expectations are met, they add up to significant savings in upfront costs, as well as reduced ongoing maintenance costs.
To better understand the specific role of Unified Communication within an organization, in particular that of a Small to Medium-size Business (SMB), consider this list of must-haves...
A telephony solution must:
Your phone system is your primary communications tool. You need to know that the phone system will work, because downtime can cost your business valuable dollars.
Many SMBs shopping for a new phone system would prefer to “look bigger” to customers. A new phone system offers features that can help make you appear like a larger business, even if you are small. It means you can deliver a polished and slick customer experience, letting your phone system make the best first impression for every call.
It should integrate with and support current software packages (CRMs and other third-party solutions) and workflow processes to complent, or help, current operations. Equally desirable is for the UC solution to be compatible with existing hand-sets (IP phones) and other infrastructure to further save installation costs.
Not only do SMBs expect a good value on purchasing a phone system, they also want to see a strong Return on Investment (ROI). Usually, this means a phone systems that provides some type of savings that makes the investment worthwhile, or eventually helps pay for it.
Provide Seamless Communications
SMBs want modern phone systems to provide a seamless, unified experience throughout the company, regardless of industry type, company size, and number of locations.
Anytime businesses make an investment in a new phone system, it's important that it not only support existing employees and company size, but that it be easily expandable to support future growth potential.
Be Flexible, Customizable
Most SMBs need a business phone system to meet a basic set of priorities. These will vary by business, but some of the more popular requests include:
- Enable implementation of a mobile strategy than includes seamless UC using mobile devices, tablets, IM (Instant Message), VM (VoiceMail), social media, follow- me technology, and email
- Provide programmable call routing, call queues, and ring groups so calls can be directed to designated departments or call centers rather than bombarding a busy receptionist
- Accommodate a live operator during business hours, but utilizing an auto-attendant after hours and on holidays
- Support video conferencing and/or teleconferencing
- Provide reporting functionality for call efficiency
- Save money on long distance calling
The adoption of UC solutions by SMBs is being driven by far more than a current trend in the marketplace. UC is a business communications solution that meets critical business needs for organizations of all sizes.
Learn how Switchvox can help you easily transition from simple telephony to a feature-rich UC solution.