Communication flows along several distinct channels. Voice is the most familiar. Then we have social media chatter. Chats are not far behind. Instant Messaging is another. You can always rely on SMS to put the message across. Fax still works in many cases. Email will never go out of fashion. Video conference, IVR and chat add their attraction to the mix. All these channels operate in their own lanes. For businesses it becomes a nightmare to attend to customers who keep switching lanes. You can be jumping through the hoops and tiring yourself out. Thankfully, someone thought of a smart way to converge all these lanes into a unified channel of communication and UC, as it is known, is now the best solution. You can sit in front of your screen, watch traffic on the channels and respond with just a click.
What is Unified Communication?
The simplest way to define unified communication solution is as a system that ties together all diverse channels of communication into a single access and monitoring point. UC may be a feature of your IP PBX. It could just as well be a browser based interface. The key is the visual dashboard. You can view and handle any channel of communication and make use of its various features without having to switch systems. For example, you can use the dashboard to view an email from a client, respond by fax or SMS and then dial their number to talk over the phone even as you drop a tweet or a post and, maybe progress to a video chat. Do it all without jumping through hoops.
Features of typical Unified Communication platform
A system like IP PBX may feature unified communication. Call center solutions may feature unified communications. Unified communication may be tacked onto existing communications within an enterprise to tie them all together to a single interface. You can pick the type that suits your existing situation. Nevertheless, you get to enjoy these features of the UC platform:
A unified messaging platform: Messages may originate from a smartphone or your desktop and messages may be sent by different employees. Unification brings together all messaging applications, whether mobile or desktop based and lets you switch from one to another. You can store all messages in a central repository if you like.
Fax: In a unified communication setup all incoming faxes go through a single interface and then are distributed as attachments to email to specific recipients who can choose to open the fax on desktop computer or mobile device.
Conferencing: UC lets those within the system communicate with each other and with customers or vendors using the chat and conference facility.
They may choose audio or audio-video chat for engagement. It is invaluable as a customer service tool and as a tool for unified collaboration between teams. It is unified so all recordings go into a central CRM.
Mobility: Your employee mix may comprise of in-office workers, employees on the move and remote employees. The mobile phone becomes the preferred device for all such people but with so many employees it becomes difficult to keep track of conversations. Thankfully, UC brings them all together through a common interface and recording system. Further, should mobile users wish to use other channels and monitor activities they have full access. UC removes constraints as you can see.
Notifications: You can push and receive notifications and the beauty of UC is that it becomes a centralized activity viewable on your dashboard as well as others on your team. Send text, voicemail or email.
Social media: Social media connect is vitally important and UC brings it into the fold. You can manage Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts through your dashboard and view activities, jump in or respond.
Web apps and CRM: UC can widen its scope to include web apps and also help you manage webpage chatbots if you like. CRM, however, is a must have hub of your UC wheel and its spokes of communication lanes.
UC can be deployed in different ways. As stated above you could buy an on-premise communication system like an IP PBX, for instance, that already has UC built in. You can get VoIP solutions providers to tie in UC to your existing communication set up if there is no such system in place. The other option is to simply subscribe to UC as a Service, this option being the best for startups and small business owners. Regardless of which model you choose UC is indispensable and offers quite a few benefits.
Benefits of UC
- Boost productivity: Employees need no longer spend time and effort keeping track of various different communication lanes. It is all there right in front of your eyes and you can switch from one to the other. Speed of response improves dramatically as does customer satisfaction. Then think about collaboration between teams. UC improves and facilitates collaboration. Your team members need not move from their desk to hold online conferences, share documents and arrive at decisions.
- Centralized data for better security:
- You can configure UC so that all communication records go into a central repository and the UC solution also features encryption facility to improve security of data. Confidential business information remains confidential.
- Cost reduction: This is a major benefit of UC. That all your communication lines become streamlined is a benefit in itself but you could also pick channels of communication that cost the least and thus save a lot of money. For instance, you could use email in place of phone calls or switch to VoIP or video chat or just converse over social media.
- Customer delight: From attending new leads to serving established customers, the speed and quality of response will surely lead to customer delight. Happy customers are loyal customers. They buy more and recommend you to others.
- Ideal for small businesses and startups: Should you choose UcaaS you have a full-fledged communication suite right at your fingertips and get all the benefits at a low monthly cost.
- Analytics: With all channels under one roof or dashboard so to speak, your analytics become better and this leads to all round improvement. Cost reduction is just one aspect. You can analyze which channels customers prefer, which channels are favored and which are convenient. You can weed out channels that waste time and focus on others that get things done. It ties data and communication leading to smarter business decisions.
If UC is the defacto choice for businesses it is not surprising given its ease of use, feature sets and so many benefits.