What Is Unified Communications? Benefits and Practices to Implement

You must be resource-efficient to run a business.

The future of business depends on the service you provide to prospects throughout the lead-to-conversion journey and the touchpoints you establish.

Leads are everywhere, quite literally. But the way you treat them is what makes the difference. Connecting underlying infrastructure with unified communications will provide a holistic first-time experience to the ideal target market. It will also save you the fright of losing the market by not addressing or capturing information via important channels.

With the increasing focus on customer-centric marketing, unified communication has gained a lot of thurst. Companies are launching their unified communication as a platform (UCaaS) within product releases or go-to-market drives to be at the beck and call of prospects.

Unified communication integrates the services of vertical and horizontal units within an organization and streamlines business operations within one single cloud.  The most common examples are cloud telephony, WhatsApp business API, and email service. 

No matter what lead acquisition channel is being deployed by a business, the data gets stored via the API call dynamically. The lead flow is maintained in a way that the cloud runs specific offers, logic, and code based on intent and strength. At no point in the unified communication strategy should a person feel unattended. 

Several progressions in technology today have passed the golden hand to businesses. As the cloud wave takes over, applications get containerized to produce efficient data handling and quick lead generation via customer communication channels. But that wasn’t always the case.

Evolution of unified communications 

The earlier convention of sales and marketing had businesses on the sled of market failure. The inability to measure touchpoints, missed inbound calls, and sloth investment of sales teams made the process extremely difficult. The customer could never get what was required due to the gap in communication and collaboration.

Initially, companies liaised with cloud telephony services and marketing agencies to scale consumer communication. Different verticals of a department didn’t have a common platform to send, receive, and manage lead data. This led to a unanimous clutter, where the business ended up losing the leads.

The concept of unified communications is a breakthrough that streamlines customer communications digitally for brands. Integrating omni-commerce channels with API calls and integrated data environments can help every department learn the current status of the lead.

This technology can help sales teams track sales touchpoints, push enablement material, and tackle sales objections at any stage of the purchase journey.

How do you plan a unified communications strategy?

Being able to provide both audio and video functionality is a must for any UC service. In fact, in 2012, 93% of internal comms professionals already thought video calls would be critical to communication. They were right. They just didn’t realize all of the other communication tools that would join them at the core of business communication.

Sometimes, UC is confused with unified messaging. UC does contain unified messaging as part of its services. The difference is that UC covers both real-time and non-real-time delivery of communications. 

There are several keys to planning an effective UC strategy.

The user experience

Start with your team members. Who will be using the UC platform, and what will they need to be doing most of the time? Management teams may need great video conferencing capabilities. A UK-based call center agent, meanwhile, will need a high presence through regional telephony, as well as potentially SMS, email, and social media channels. Think about the tools that will be needed to support the user experience (UX).

Staff training

UC adoption will take time, especially for a large enterprise with thousands of employees. Each user will need to not only be familiar but highly competent with using the UC interface. Otherwise, things won’t get done properly, and time will be wasted troubleshooting. 

Consider phased rollouts if your organization is large so that your IT support team can give full attention and not be overwhelmed. Spending more time getting UC adoption right the first time will pay dividends in the long run.

Infrastructure

Before you can implement a UC framework, you need to know if the system integrates with your current operations. This can be pre-existing hardware like desktops and telephones or legacy software systems already installed on company computers. 

Will your current network infrastructure hold up to increased traffic? If you are moving to a cloud-based UC service, will your current bandwidth be adequate? It may be the case that your infrastructure needs an overhaul to be UC-ready.

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Future-proofing

No matter which UC solution fits your organization, make sure you set yourself to evolve with the industry. Technology is rapidly changing, and the markets are growing. Opt for a solution that allows for great scalability relative to the size of your business. 

In this way, the business can respond to increased demands from customers or resources with agility. You will also want to have interoperability options. You might need the ability to support a diverse set of third-party integrations. Or desire private/hybrid cloud flexibility. Give your organization options. This way, you can evolve your UC framework along with the business.

Benefits of unified communications

Key components of integrating unified communications into the digital workforce can be classified into the following groups:

  • Multi-channel communication: Telephony and video conferencing platforms like Skype, Slack, Gong, and Amoeba can help with getting proximity to the first lead touchpoint. Integrating enablement resources with these platforms scales intent and verifies authenticity. 
  • Video: Video platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and even call center software are used to integrate, capture, and store telephonic activity details in the system. These details can be used in further stages of the buyer’s funnel.
  • Audio: Audio calling systems like interactive voice response (IVR) provide a white glove experience with pre-recorded and templated messages. Having an embedded audio functionality makes in-app calls simple and user-friendly.
  • Email integration: Sending emails through a credit messaging platform like Unbounce or Mailchimp not only personalizes email content but also shares insights like open rate, click rate, and impressions.
  • Auto tracking with mobile app: Embedding geolocation flexibility that helps track the attendance of sales professionals would strengthen on-field sales operations.
  • Security and Compliance: App integrations and API interfaces need to comply with the overall business’s IT security and compliance guidelines.
  • Instant messaging credits: By measuring lead intent, instant messaging credit platforms can run custom API logics of discount offers, seminars, and other enablement resources that build a business recall.  
  • Open source team collaboration: Though unified communications is an external determinant of client acquisition, open source team collaboration platforms like Atlassian’s Confluence can organize common practices to be followed, including data points policies and guidelines.

Challenges of unified communications

While a digital, remote, or hybrid workforce can be beneficial both to the employee and the employer, it does come with several challenges. Here are a few of the remote work pain points that UC can address:

Communication channels

Oftentimes, managers and team leaders can be uncertain about how or when to connect remote staff. By using a UC platform, all communication happens in one place. This means that when the virtual team member accesses the platform, they will get any message as soon as they need it.

Availability

Within a business communications framework, digital workers can lack presence. That is, it can be difficult for coworkers and team leaders to know when the recipient of a message is available in real time. A UC platform simplifies this process, with all communication taking place in the same space. 

Recipients will be available when they choose to be, regardless of device or location. All of the relevant coworkers will be able to contact them in real time with whatever method they desire.

Encouraging camaraderie 

It can be hard to build a sense of community within a virtual work environment. With a UC framework, it can be easier to create connections between members of the team. 

Virtual meetings can be done as conferences or 1-on-1s with HD video and clear audio. These types of face-to-face interactions can help everyone see the people behind the organization. Social team chats can also be implemented to allow for non-work communication and a bit of fun interaction.

DDOS attacks

Running unified communication as a service (UcaaS) within your system ERP also causes data vulnerabilities like distributed data denial service (DDOS) attacks. Managing a copious amount of traffic sometimes results in data breaches and thefts, which divulges important information to hackers.

Service hijacking 

Exposing client data over unauthorized web servers results in service hijacking. At no point are the personal details safe over the web, and they get eaten into by competitors and other monopolists who follow unfair brand practices. The cloud servers need to be secured against such hijackers with regular scans and audit trails.

Ransomware

Unified communications as a platform (UCaaS) needs exponential network bandwidth that supports multiple software packages, libraries, and dependencies to store, share, and retrieve communication logs and data. This data needs stout support with cybersecurity software. The lack of proper encrypted cybersecurity software makes this data prone to ransomware.

Components of unified communications 

Unified communications address an organization’s communication needs by streamlining the collaborative process. Communication is easier and more reliable. This helps to drive greater collaboration between team members.

Organizations should consider unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) technology. A UC&C framework adds much-needed collaboration tools that go hand in hand with a UC model. These tools can include things like screen sharing and group document creation and editing in real time.

Virtual collaboration is essential to your digital workforce. A UCaaS solution helps achieve that in the following ways:

Increased productivity

When employees have the right tools for the job, that means they can spend their time more effectively. Team members use one interface for communication and collaboration. This saves valuable time switching between apps or devices. They can pull up any information that they need, too, as well as work on projects together seamlessly.

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Even small businesses can see a workplace productivity boost of up to 52%, and your employees will also be happier.  A recent study showed that collaboration tools increase team efficiency by as much as 20% and that 40% of workers say they’d pay for their own to make their lives easier.

Team responsiveness

With UC&C, team members can reach each other at any time and from any place. So whenever a team member is available, they will be able to respond quickly. This is very important for external communications like sales or customer service inquiries.

Customers looking to buy or to get a solution to a problem will expect a prompt response. Many such responses will need equally speedy internal communications to find the right answer.

Reduced business costs

Any time a business can increase productivity that means also saving time and money. UC helps to do this by eliminating the minutiae of switching apps or improper communication routing.

Using one service for UC&C, a business will also simplify costs, making it easier to only pay for what you need. These are precious resources that can be used in more critical operations of the organization.

Greater collaboration

It should go without saying, but when it’s easier for people to communicate, it’s also easier for them to work together on tasks and projects. Not only is it easier, but UC&C also supplies tools that encourage cross-functional collaboration. 

They do this by making interactions seamless and offering services that make sense in a virtual workspace. During team meetings, screen sharing and whiteboards can make participation much easier.

Real-time communication

Any unified communications solution must provide channels for real-time communication. Users get options to communicate via their preferred channels, be they text messaging, live chat, or telephony.

Email integration

Many organizations will have work email in place. Some employees also like to link their personal email for communication. A UC service will give employees the flexibility to integrate a choice of several email services. A platform-based email service may also be available. 

There are a lot of possibilities for how email can link up with UC&C. You can send transcripts from a video conference via email right after the meeting ends. Or a voice message left via VoIP can be converted to text and emailed to a coworker.

Voice calls

UCaaS voice calls can be conducted easily from one unified platform. This means that team members can reach out to one another for a conference call from any device. As long as both team members are connected to the network, they will have the option to create a voice call through many different channels. 

A video call or group chat can seamlessly become a voice call and vice versa. This gives your team great communication flexibility.

Calendar and scheduling

A UCaaS solution can integrate with employee work calendars and scheduling services. Many times, they will have flexibility in which calendar app and scheduling tools they use. Apps like Google Calendar will sync with the main interface and be updated in real time. 

When a meeting is canceled, employees receive an email and/or SMS notification. And their calendar gets updated behind the scenes. This saves them from manually having to clear their schedule. And prevents awkward misunderstandings from a missed memo.

Data reporting and dashboards

Every UC&C software solution will have a main dashboard for users to pull up any features of the interface. Usually, the dashboard has several view options and customization alternatives. 

Live reporting and analytics can be accessed with a few clicks or pinned to the main dashboard. This allows employers and managers to have the most relevant information at hand quickly.

Flexible team chat

Team members need to be able to have a variety of options for team chat. SMS and IM are just a couple of the essential channels. The service needs to be accessible, too, from smart devices and laptops via web browser, VoIP browser, or developer support app. This will ensure your team can stay in touch at all times, no matter where they are.

Integrations

It is safe to say that an ideal UC platform will easily integrate with software and apps the business is already using. Your business may be using legacy software for business operations.  Or your employees are using Outlook or iCalendar. Don’t change the systems if you don’t have to. Having native application connectivity will prevent creating new problems.

Video conference meetings

A digital workforce will benefit greatly from face-to-face meetings. So, make sure you can access high-quality video conferencing that supports an HD video and audio experience through your chosen UCaaS solution. 

A service should support a large enough number of attendees to fit your company’s needs. And look for collaborative tools like meeting whiteboards, screen-sharing, and real-time meeting chat.

Voice calls

Sometimes, nothing can beat good old-fashioned phone calls. Pick a UC platform that not only supports voice calls but offers some flexibility for users to make and connect those calls. VoIP is a winner here because it lets users have voice call functionality with almost any device.

Ease-of-use

Businesses will want to find a UC platform that comes with additional features designed for ease of use:

Business SMS

Having one place to send SMS text messages to employees is important. But businesses should also have the ability to reach out to customers. A good UC platform will let your customer service and sales teams send out SMS in real-time using existing business phone numbers. Text messaging should be cloud-based so staff can send them from an array of devices.

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Digital faxing

The business world is becoming digital, but that doesn’t mean your business doesn’t need the ability to fax customers and employees. This can be especially useful for compliance with local and national regulations. In these cases, hard copies can be necessary.

Digital faxing makes this simple. A remote employee can fax a document to the correct department with the click of a button. Digital faxing from a UC&C platform makes it easy for any user to view, share, or print documents as needed. 

Download-free video conferencing

Video conferences have many advantages for organizations. They help to convey important announcements, supercharge training, and encourage discussions amongst team members. To get the most from them, you want your team to have great flexibility in how they participate in any meeting. 

Look for a UC platform that offers browser-based video conferencing, such as a browser VoIP call. Support for popular browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Safari will ensure that your team can join a video call painlessly. And from the device of their choice. 

High-definition video and audio

When new technology works well, people are quick to adopt it, and when it comes to communication, high-level audio and video streaming are key to adoption.  Employee use compliance is just the starting point. High-quality streaming allows for clarity and stability of connections. 

Your team won’t spend lots of time trying to get a call set up or understand a garbled mess. Saving time and frustration will go a long way to improving your employees’ mood and productivity. And management will be able to spend more time productively leading the meeting. 

Screen sharing

When having audio and video conferences, the ability to share a screen is invaluable. Besides the stimulation that visual aids like PowerPoint slides can have for participants, sometimes it is just easier to show team members what you mean. 

This can be extra helpful in times of IT troubleshooting, but also useful for staff training and demonstrations. In live meetings, this can also be done with a team-shared whiteboard.

File sharing 

At a minimum, a UCaaS solution should have some form of file sharing. This could be as simple as team members dragging and dropping documents into a team chat. But ideally, integrated cloud storage for any type of file-sharing is the best option. This lets your team members have a central hub for important documents and other files. And it will be accessible from within the platform.

Unified communications technology best practices

Once your organization has found a UC solution that fits, you will want to adopt best practices to improve collaboration further.

Implement company-wide data security

Make sure you and your teams stick to the UC platform for all correspondence. This will ensure you have top-level encryption as well as maintaining the main benefit of UC: having all your communication under one umbrella. Everyone should be getting the same data security, even in a BYOD scenario. Of course, all devices must stay up to date with OS and browser updates, and this should be stated in the company UC policy.

Enable user profile management

Not everyone in a large enterprise needs access to everything. Even in a small business, user profiles will help to make sure each job role has access to the relevant tools. Giving employees access to a simple interface with only what they need will make it easier for them to adopt for daily use.

Create a communication policy

Put a communication policy in place that guides team members on which channels should be used and when. Make sure, though, there are options to allow for flexibility for remote workers. 

This can allow for out-of-work communication in non-real-time, like a work IM or email. However, the expectation is that the recipient will not open the message until they are available to work. And have defined channels for team, project, company-wide, and non-work communication.

Incentivize positive collaboration

Hold weekly or monthly contests for communication and collaboration encouragement. Leverage user data from a UC platform’s analytics and encourage friendly competition between departments or team members.

Track things like use rate or how many different users contributed to a document or file. For some employees, a little reward can nudge them into maximizing the tools available to them.

Data Masking

Secure authentic credentials for every user interface being accessed by sales and marketing professionals. Making a login ID and password and enabling role-based access control (RBAC) ensures data remains masked for critical tasks. Further, maintaining a lead activity dashboard, customer advocacy dashboard, and contact repositories maintain an integral backbone of business operations.

Communication is the underdog

Without leveraging the benefits of unified communications, your company will miss out on reduced costs and increased employee productivity. What’s more, you’ll also become less appealing to future talent and less competitive to retain your current employees.

To ensure workplace flexibility in the future, you must implement a UC solution. UC technology improves all the processes of your business, and it prepares your company for the future of the workplace. UCaaS is the best way to unify and strengthen your remote teams. And your employees will reward your organization with greater output.

Be at the forefront of customer preferences with omnichannel commerce software and tap into demand forecasting with intelligent tools. 

منبع: https://learn.g2.com/unified-communications