Take your business to the next level with unified communications
Your business can have innovative ideas, top-notch products, and talented people, but it will never reach its full potential if your employees aren’t communicating well with each other and with customers.
To thrive today, businesses need to stay in touch with their customers or clients, and they need to do so frequently. They also need excellent communication and collaboration tools. A modern, hosted Unified Communication system with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling can help your business deliver better customer service and better employee productivity.
What is Unified Communications?
Unified Communications, or UC, is a way to link all your communication and collaboration tools. In fact, it’s sometimes referred to as Unified Communications and Collaboration. Basically, UC lets people talk in whatever way makes the most sense at the moment: voice calls, email, audio/video conferencing, chat, etc. On a UC system, you get the same user experience on all devices, and it’s easy to use no matter where you are.
Another big plus is that UC solutions may be linked with your compatible customer relationship management (CRM) system. So when a customer service rep is on a call, they can easily pull up a record of all past purchases and contacts with the customer.
What is Voice over Internet Protocol?
Voice over Internet Protocol, also known as VoIP or IP telephony, modernizes your business communication network. This Unified Communications technology sends data over the internet rather than over the old public switched telephone network (PSTN), enabling better voice quality and reliability.
VoIP is a key element for Unified Communications—you need it to make all the UC pieces work together. You can also reap the following benefits by using VoIP solutions alone:
- You get unlimited local and long-distance calling.
- You can control costs better by consolidating your voice and data network, and avoiding high costs related to maintaining a premise-based system.
- You can easily add or subtract phone lines and move extensions to adjust to your business demands.
What can UC do for your business?
When you add Unified Communications and Collaboration on top of VoIP solutions, you can expect even more benefits. For example, UC solutions can help improve business efficiencies, spurring increases in market revenue. The major benefits of Unified Communications include higher productivity and better customer service for your company.
Let’s look at some examples of Unified Communications at work and how it can help your business processes.
Say an employee has finished a project for a major client and has to leave immediately for an important conference. The employee is already gone when the client calls with a question about the project, and the question has to be answered today.
With UC, the client can call your employee’s desk phone and the call will ring directly to their mobile device or laptop. The employee can take the call, switch to a video conference call, and share their screen so everyone is literally on the same page at the same time.
With UC solutions, the end-user experience—whether you’re videoconferencing or answering an email—is simple and familiar, regardless of the device being used.
UC also helps you provide better customer service. It can be linked with your CRM system so that when your service reps are chatting with customers, they can easily pull up a record of past purchases and communications.
If they need extra help answering a customer’s questions, they can use the presence feature to find someone who knows more about the issue. By conferencing with an expert, employees can resolve issues quickly without transferring the customer from one person to another.
These are just a couple of examples of the kind of business processes where UC can be valuable in helping propel market growth for your business.
What should you consider when choosing VoIP and UC solutions?
You’ll want to make sure that the VoIP or Unified Communications companies you talk with have a carrier-grade network and can guarantee high uptime. Internet Telephony magazine follows the industry closely and can be a good source of information on service providers, the UC market in North America, and unified communications and collaboration market trends in general.
You also need to be sure your existing broadband internet service is robust enough to handle the increased phone traffic VoIP and UC solutions bring. An experienced provider of business communication solutions can help you evaluate your network’s current capabilities.
How can you decide on a Unified Communications and Collaboration platform?
What is a Unified Communication platform? It’s the base technologies that your UC service is built on. There are two different kinds of Unified Communications platforms: on-premises (which means the service is hosted on servers at your place of business) and as a service (which means the service is hosted in the cloud).
What is on-premises Unified Communications?
On-premises Unified Communications and Collaboration solutions are, as the name suggests, located at your business. You have more control with this option, but unlike cloud-based solutions, you have to invest in equipment, space to store that equipment, and staff to maintain it. On-premises systems are generally part of enterprise communication systems that very large corporations use.
What is Unified Communications as a service?
Unified Communications as a service, or UCaas, is a cloud-based solution that’s a good fit for small and medium-size business. It eliminates the need for on-premises equipment, personnel, and upfront capital investments. Because it’s based in the cloud, Unified Communications as a service lets you scale up and down easily, and you have a predictable monthly cost.
Cloud-based Unified Communications as a service is not just for smaller companies, though. According to a Gartner report, Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, Worldwide, “UCaaS … capabilities now exceed those available from premises-based UC solutions.”
What features can you expect with UC?
Different Unified Communications and Collaboration companies package UC solutions differently, but these packages typically include real-time communication and collaboration tools as well as basic tools, like email. Features commonly offered, in addition to the obvious voice calling, include the following:
- Video conferencing and audio conferencing
- Email, including email fax, accessible on multiple devices
- Voice mail, which can also be accessed as a text or an email message from your office phone or mobile devices
- Chat (instant messaging)
- SMS (phone texting)
- Presence indicator so employees know when someone is available to talk
- Parallel ringing so calls come to both your desk phone and mobile phone
- Calendar access via any of your devices
Popular solutions for unified communications include Cisco Spark, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Skype for Business and Verizon Virtual Communications Express. The solutions can provide you with the tools and benefits of VoIP Unified Communications. (You may be familiar with Lync Online and Office Communicator. Microsoft has replaced these UC solutions with Skype for Business, although Lync Phone Edition and Lync Server 2013 are still supported platforms.)
Training programs through companies like Unitek Education can also help you make sure you’re getting the most out of your solution, whether it’s based in the cloud or on-premises.
Choose a Unified Communications leader for VoIP.
If you’re looking for a great provider to help you implement your Unified Communications and Collaboration strategy, you can’t go wrong with Verizon. Verizon ranked as a leader for its cloud-based UC solution and for its network services and managed security services.
“Gartner notes that Verizon’s pricing is competitive, and bundled services can help cost savings even further.”**
The provider has cloud-based UC solutions for all sizes of companies, from large enterprises to small businesses, with strong service level agreements and competitive pricing. Bundled services can save you even more.
Make sure you’re giving your employees all the tools they need to help your business grow. See how Verizon Unified Communications solutions, such as Virtual Communications Express, can help you improve productivity and customer service.
*Griffith, Eric. “The Fastest ISPs of 2017,” PCMag, June 2, 1027. https://www.pcmag.com/article/353936/the-fastest-isps-of-2017