What is Unified Communications?

The famous saying goes: “Work smarter, not harder”, and regardless of the size or status of your business, maximising the efficiency of people’s work is paramount. Unified Communications (UC) is a solution that allows your teams to work smarter, but also faster, making your business more streamlined and making it easier for your teams to optimise their efficiency, whether they’re at home or in the office.

In the age of hybrid working, it’s more important than ever that people have access to a simple and accessible communications platform that doesn’t require arduous dial-in processes and tenuous connections between multiple parties, or which only supports voice calling so when you want to send an instant message, you’re back to square one. That’s why, as this blog will explain, Unified Communications is a comprehensive solution to support your business with the shift to digital communication.

What is Unified Communications?

Unified Communications is a collection of communication methods in a singular phone system which allows businesses to carry out all their standard ways of communicating including SMS, email, videoconferencing and instant messaging.

There are different types of Unified Communications systems as different businesses require unique structures in their network and communications. The most common are Private Branch Exchange (PBX) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). While these systems offer different services, they can in fact be used in conjunction if your business needs both facilities.

PBX is a simple business phone system that takes all the calls coming into your office from the outside world and directs each call to the correct employees’ desk. PBX systems remove the need for multiple external phone lines from a telephone company and connects your internal calls, alleviating the need for an external telephone line for internal calls.

VoIP, meanwhile, doesn’t require traditional telephone landlines as it functions entirely over the internet. Phone calls, instant messaging and video calls are all carried out over the internet, which comes with a whole host of benefits we discuss later in this article.

Digital transformation and Unified Communications

Digital Transformation is a term that a few years ago may have sounded alien or been reserved exclusively for the most technical of businesses. However, the workplace has now shifted to an environment that has left organisations with little choice but to digitally transform, and quickly, or get left behind.

However, digital transformation doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect. Instead, it can be a simple and exciting process to bring your business into the present day. Factoring UC into your digital transformation strategy allows you to draw all your existing avenues of communication together while keeping access to new ways to remain connected with your colleagues. What’s more, the entire business network can be housed in one simple, helpful and cost-efficient system.

At a time that is ‘all systems go’ for many businesses, making sure you have efficient solutions at your fingertips is crucial to supporting your business’s transition period.

Adaptation of Unified Communications

For many, a change in IT or communication system can feel more like a mandate than a comfortable transition. However, Unified Communications is different - its simplicity saves new users from becoming bogged down in complexities and technicalities that can harm user experience in the short term and can lead to system resentment.

Instead, with the correct initial training and company awareness, the steps towards using Unified Communications can form a user-friendly and smooth adoption process. One of the best ways to ensure that adoption is received positively and is widespread across your business is to make sure you invest in an intuitive system that works for both everyday users and administrators. Having a UC system with the best IT tools on the market, like BT’s Cloud Voice or One Phone, can make sure your employees easily understand the benefits and will guarantee they never want to take the steps back to decentralised legacy systems. 

Benefits of Unified Communications

The benefits of Unified Communications can be broken down into three key components:

  • Enhanced employee experience
  • Enhanced customer experience
  • Better for business

 

While each of these considerations have historically been common IT bugbears, they no longer need to be thanks to Unified Communications. And what’s more, all of them will help to drive success and level the playing field with other organisations operating on UC systems.

Enhanced employee experience

Not only do Unified Communication systems remove the need for multiple alternatives that all require various individual technologies which need to be mastered, but their benefits also go beyond basic functionality - employees no longer need to feel restricted by their telecommunications system.

Using UC, every team member can save a significant amount of time by making sure that all of their communication takes place through one centralised system. UC also allows them to be flexible by giving them the opportunity to work remotely, with many systems even offering the option for businesses to work spread across the globe. For employees, feeling comfortable that their technology supports their lifestyle makes for a more seamless and accommodating working environment. 

Enhanced customer experience

Using a UC system can maximise how your business interacts with its customers. Using call queues and careful IVRs to handle inbound calls means that each call can be directed to the appropriate place. As a result, businesses can reduce waiting times, minimise holding periods and prevent missed calls from customers.

All these positive customer experience points can have a positive effect on sales; a customer who feels well treated and satisfied with their experience is more likely to repeat the process. 96% of people say that customer service is essential to their loyalty to a brand, and so giving customers a simplified communication system, that makes them feel valued increases both trust and loyalty. What’s more, customers who feel satisfied by the way they have been treated during the sales process are likely to spend 140% more than those who don’t. 71% of companies have also stated that the cloud had a vast improvement on their customer service abilities, driving sales, and therefore, switching your communications solution can have a direct impact on sales, ultimately improving the business’ bottom line. 

Better for business

UC business-specific benefits are extensive, as we’ve already outlined when it comes to flexibility and increased sales potential. However, those are by no means the only business benefits UC can provide.

UC systems have a lower overall operating cost, meaning that making the switch will allow your business to save money. From reducing the cost of international calls to the cheaper cost of implementing UC solutions, the many ways to better your business through saving money (and in many cases making more) make it a logical business investment.

Core Unified Communications features

UC systems are made up of a variety of communications components and features including:

  • Audio and videoconferencing
  • Call control and multimodal communications
  • Instant and unified messaging
  • Mobility
  • Business process integration

Audio and video conferencing

Unified Communications gives users the flexibility to communicate in a way that best suits their needs. Calls can vary in size and environment, but all enable your employees to collaborate in real-time regardless of location.

Call control and multimodal communications

Delivering the correct call to the right endpoint, call control and multimodal communications options, creates the smoothest communication system that enables your employees to work from the best device for them at the best time.

Instant and unified messaging

For those moments where you don’t have time to pick up the phone and call, instant and unified messaging features allow you to communicate quickly and in real-time without the need for a full conversation

Mobility

Now your business has the flexibility to work across multiple devices whilst still being connected to one universal system. With a UC solution, remote working is simpler than ever before.

Business process integration

No longer do you need to pay high fees for system integrators to come in and align all your business communications. With UC core solutions and applications you can reduce your infrastructure management and gives you great control across your communications.

Other collaboration tools

The latest UC systems have all the communications tools you need to maximise collaboration with applications that can help make your business even more streamlined. 

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)

UCaaS, as the title suggests, is an extension of UC under the ‘everything as a service’ model. The biggest benefit of the UCaaS system is that it makes UC even more accessible, binding all of the technology together in one cohesive unit that’s hosted by your provider.

The crucial difference is that it’s the responsibility of the provider to get you going, meaning you don’t have to set up any of your own infrastructure. UCaaS is flexible and cloud-based, meaning it works for businesses of all shapes and sizes. 

Improve productivity with cloud-based collaboration

Cloud-based collaboration gives you everything you need in one place, but what’s more, you can access it on the go, in the office or wherever you need. In an age of remote working, cloud-based Unified Communications is a solution that supports your business whether you’re on a hybrid, in-office or work from home set-up.

Whether your team is working on a presentation or trying to assist a customer with a query, a Unified Communications system offers a platform where all team members can manage everything from one centralised location. Now, you can manage project development, connect to your team wherever they are in the world, access the expertise you need and track reporting without the countless hurdles that come from disjointed communications and platforms.

A cloud-based platform allows you to keep all of your data and information in one place so it can be accessed across teams and locations, giving your business the flexibility to bring in the right people as and when you need. Unified Communications is the next step for your business to take to optimise productivity through a user-friendly solution that is there to support everyone. 

Looking for a Unified Communications system that works for your business? Find out more about BT’s UC offerings, from Cloud Phone and Cloud Voice to MiVoice and the BT One Phone. Our offerings cater to you and your business whatever size, spec and scope you need - our solutions will set your business on a digital transformation trajectory ready for the future, keeping you connected to your customers and your wider business.

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