Unified Communications is a well-known concept, and an increasing number of businesses are opting for unified solutions in order to streamline their communications and cut costs. Having all channels of communication consolidated onto one platform makes management easier but there are also a number of additional benefits that can impact business in the long run. This whitepaper aims to explain how unified communications and collaboration (UCC) plays an important role in boosting productivity, increasing mobility, and allowing employees to work more efficiently.
With most businesses making the switch to more modern software-based VoIP phone systems, in preparation for the closure of ISDN and PSTN circuits, decision makers are taking this opportunity to revamp their whole communications strategy. This means, employing full featured unified communications and collaboration solutions that encompass and assist all tasks that an employee may face. Unified communications is no longer simply a buzzword used by savvy sales agents, a view cemented by the fact that the global UCaaS market has been projected to reach a value of USD 17165.9 million by 2024, at a CAGR of 25.67% (Mordor Intelligence, 2019).
One of the key reasons driving the adoption of UCC solutions is the productivity gains which can be achieved, for all sizes and types of organizations. Thanks to unified communications it is now possible for employees to participate in meetings when working from home or on the go, receive voicemail messages to their email, and see whether their colleagues are available to take calls.
What’s more, UCC applications are becoming increasingly feature-rich yet simple to use. WebRTC technology, which enables video and voice communications to take place through the internet browser, has added a new dimension to unified communications. Employees can now communicate solely through their browser with a web client. This has enabled quick, hassle-free communication as well as the ability to chat and talk with customers or potential leads for free directly through their business website.
This white paper will explain how unified communications can play an important role in boosting productivity by offering greater mobility, enabling collaboration and saving employees’ time.
What is Unified Communications?
Unified Communications and collaboration is the consolidation of various technologies, features and software that allow users to communicate and work through multiple channels on a single platform. UC features include: chat, status, video conferencing, browser-based communications, and website live chat.
For businesses and other organizations, adopting a UCC solution eliminates the need for multiple communications systems. In turn, this optimizes business procedures and boosts communications by simplifying processes, making it easier for people to keep in touch.
How can Unified Communications Increase Productivity?
As businesses and organizations look to updating their communications solutions, Unified Communications can play an important role in boosting productivity and efficiency by offering greater mobility, boosting collaboration and saving employees’ time.
1. Enjoy Greater Mobility
Mobility in the workplace has become an increasingly important topic within recent years, with the number of remote workers having increased by 140% since 2005 (Global Workplace Analytics, 2019). Keeping staff happy and motivated is one of the top reasons business look to adopt a UC solution and in a survey from YouGov, it was found that 64% of millennials would like to occasionally work from home (Businessinfo, 2018). Offering employees greater mobility and the ability to work at home is also linked to increased productivity.
However, with the rise of remote workers and the increased number of companies using hot desking, employees need to be able to answer their desk phone from a variety of devices and from wherever they are working. UC enables greater mobility in a number of ways, including the one number concept and the provision of softphones.
With the one number concept employees are able to answer their deskphone from a web app on their PC, or smartphone app or tablet from wherever they may be working. Employees no longer need to possess mobile phones for business purposes, or give out their personal number because they can take their office extension with them. This feature is also useful for businesses which use hot desking as it allows employees to move around the office, rather than being tied to a fixed handset.
Browser-based softphones are another key feature of UC solutions which enable mobility. Softphones are software applications which allow voice and video calls to be made over the internet and, being browser-based, web apps allow users to easily access their business phone system with no need to download and install any software. With web clients and smartphone apps for Android and iOS, employees can answer their office calls even when they are away from their desk on their PC, smartphone or tablet.
With 59% of organizations adopting a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policy, connecting employees with UC has great potential and in fact, studies have shown that 87% of businesses are dependent on their employees’ ability to access smartphone apps for business (Syntonic, 2016). However, it is important that businesses choose a solution which offers reliable clients for all the different operating systems.
Case study: Research conducted by Stanford University in conjunction with CTrip, a discount travel website in China, found that productivity increased when they allowed 250 of their call centre employees to work from home. Productivity among the teleworkers rose by 13%-9.5%. One-third of this increase was due to having a quieter working environment, while the other two-thirds was due to the fact that people worked more hours. What’s more, from the employee’s perspective job satisfaction increased (Harvard Business Review, 2014).
2. Communicate More Effectively
One of the most cited benefits of Unified Communications is the presence feature. Knowing where your intended recipients are and whether they are available in real time offers great benefits for businesses.
Being able to view others’ presence information saves time and avoids unnecessary call transfers. If, for example, you want to transfer a client call to an extension, you can first check and see if that extension is busy and then make the transfer, or transfer it to another extension. This feature is also practical for businesses with multiple offices or for those with remote workers, where it is not possible to physically see whether the person is in the office or available to speak.
The presence feature also allows employees to inform their colleagues about their current status and controls how their calls are handled. For instance, if you are in a meeting you can set your status to away so that calls will be automatically diverted to another extension or to your voicemail. This helps employees communicate more efficiently, thereby increasing productivity. Research shows that half of the companies using a presence feature ‘reported fewer repeated messages, or ‘telephone tag’- with many employees saving as much as three hours per week, or 150 hours per year. With the average U.S. worker earning about $35 per hour, an office with 25 employees can recover more than $130,000 in productive work time annually’ (Cisco Systems).
Case study: Top Chrono, based in France, is one of the country’s leading courier delivery services, and specializes in fast transportation of packages. Top Chrono was looking to adopt a UC solution that could make communications management easier as well as address the needs of employees, one of which was mobility. The various features of 3CX have promoted better collaboration between employees and customer service agents are now able to easily communicate with on-duty couriers and get immediate answers no matter where they are. (3CX, 2019)
3. Boost collaboration with colleagues and customers
Unified Communications features can boost collaboration within businesses by enabling employees to interact more easily across different mediums. A study from 2012 revealed that 86% of employees blamed a lack of collaboration or inefficient communication for workplace failures (Salesforce, 2012). Features which improved business collaboration include: video conferencing and instant messaging.
With a software-based UC solution it’s possible to set-up video conferences in just a few clicks and collaborate with colleagues or customers around the world. Moreover, video conferencing can cut the cost and time spent on business travel, making a significant difference to business overheads. Now, with the rising popularity of browser-based communications, video conferencing and collaboration is easier than ever before, allowing participants to get started in moments without the need for downloads or registration. .
Visual collaboration can provide a valuable and effective way of communicating with customers and suppliers, enabling businesses to give product demonstrations and pitches. Being able to discuss face-to-face, in contrast to impersonal conference calls, can boost creative collaboration and enable businesses to make faster decisions. Non-verbal communication and visual interaction can help create successful conversations. Features like whiteboard, screen-sharing, polling and remote control allow for advanced collaboration on projects in a more efficient manner.
Chat is another helpful UC feature for businesses. The informality and speed of instant messaging allows employees to share their thoughts more easily and cuts down on unnecessary internal emails. Chat messages can enable more productive collaboration, particularly when brainstorming ideas. Another key benefit of instant messaging is the ability to see a colleague’s presence status. With email, on the other hand, you have no indication of whether a person is at their desk or how long it will take for a response.
The Future of Unified Communications – UC 3.0
The UC trends that are growing in popularity include cloud solutions, UC as a service, and omnichannel or multichannel systems. Fully-fledged UC services give providers the potential to more efficiently facilitate higher levels of accessibility and functionality. UC is no longer as complex, built from siloed technology which defeats the whole unified aspect of UC. Unified communications has developed to not only bring together multiple channels into one platform, but also to integrate and synchronize between all systems, software and applications for a seamless and productive experience.
Additionally, the primary goals of UC have always been to improve productivity amongst employees, foster better teamwork and collaboration, and make business processes more efficient whilst minimizing time and effort needed to manage such systems. Whilst all of this is still relevant, there are additional reasons that businesses today might look to upgrade or modernize their unified communications solution. And it all comes down to experience.
The millennial workforce seeks out work environments more focused on technology, experience, comfort and convenience, more so than any other generation before it. So employees are under pressure to meet these needs. Modern UC offers employees the opportunity to work more to their own beat, in situations and set ups that suit them. Whether it be the ability to work from home or on the go, or to choose the methods of communication more inline with their personal preference, UC offers the tools employees need to ensure enhanced mobility, productivity gains and a satisfactory user experience to all users.
Perhaps even more important is the customer experience. An increasing number of businesses are wising up to the fact that their brand success is largely dependent on the customer experience that they provide. This can be addressed in many ways but a top priority is through communication. The ubiquity of the internet has allowed consumers and customers to research and review like never before, as well as provided numerous more convenient channels of communication. In order to meet their demands and keep levels of customer satisfaction high, it’s important that a business can offer all of these various methods.
What’s more, an omnichannel solution is essential for businesses that want to keep the experience seamless, by ensuring that customers can navigate the process in a pain-free manner without any hiccups. Have they started a text chat but need to elevate to a call? No problem, they can get on a call immediately with the same agent. Are they calling in to follow up on a previous request? The agent can simply pull up the customer record so that they can view the history of the case and quickly assist.
Recommendations for Selecting a Top UC Solution
- Identify your short term and long term communication needs to ensure that you choose a solution which supports all the UC features your business requires.
- Avoid being locked into a proprietary system- choose an open standards solution. Open standards allow you to mix and match your handsets, VoIP provider, and gateway to build the best solution for your business.
- Check which UC features are included as standard with the solution as some vendors will charge extra for certain features.
- Ensure that the solution includes secure and easy-to-use phone clients for all operating systems to enable your workforce to enjoy full mobility.
- Make sure your vendor is committed to innovation and adopting new technologies.
- Choose a solution which offers fully integrated, multiple-participant video conferencing to boost collaboration within your business.
- Select a software-based solution which can be easily integrated with your existing IT infrastructure and CRM applications.
Businesses that implement the latest UC solutions are able to achieve improved productivity and efficiency by communicating more effectively internally and externally with their colleagues and customers. With features such as presence, smartphone apps, video conferencing, and website live chat, employees can use their time more productively and communicate with their colleagues and customers more easily. UC solutions are set to become increasingly sophisticated with the introduction of AI, smart devices, better integrations, and simplification of the traditional facets of communication.
Before implementing a UC solution businesses should consider their overall communications strategy. A corporate UC solution is an investment for the future – a high quality vendor will provide a fully functional, secure communications system which will increase productivity as well as improve customer satisfaction and overall brand appearance. 3CX Phone System is a software-based solution packed full of UC features, including all mentioned in this whitepaper. Designed with the IT administrator in mind, 3CX Phone System is easy to install and manage and can cut call costs by up to 70%.
3CX is a 100% channel company and is the developer of an open standards software IP PBX which innovates communications and replaces proprietary PBXs. 3CX cuts telco costs and boosts company productivity and mobility.
With integrated WebRTC web conferencing; apps for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS and the web; and a full suite of collaboration features, 3CX offers companies a complete communications package out of the box.
250,000 customers worldwide use 3CX including McDonalds, Hugo Boss, Ramada Plaza Antwerp, Harley Davidson, Wilson Sporting Goods and Pepsi. Maintaining its global presence, 3CX has offices in the U.S., U.K., Germany, South Africa, Russia and Australia. Visit 3CX on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
- 3CX, October 2019: ‘3CX Delivers Best in Class Communications to Courier Services Top Chrono’ [http://bit.ly/3a72x4P]
- Mordor Intelligence, May 2019: ‘Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) Market – Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2019-2025)’ [http://bit.ly/3aaDihM]
- Global Workplace Analytics, August 2019: ‘Telecommuting Trend Data’ [http://bit.ly/35UN4kN]
- Businessinfo, January 2018: ‘Top 5 Reasons to Adopt Unified Communications in 2018’ [http://bit.ly/30gzAPp]
- Syntonic, September 2016: ‘BYOD Usage in the Enterprise’ [http://bit.ly/3a7Qwfy]
- Salesforce, September 2012: ‘Is Poor Collaboration Killing Your Company? [Infographic]’ [https://sforce.co/2TopPNp]
- Harvard Business Review- Nicholas Bloom, Jan-Feb 2014: ‘To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home’ [http://bit.ly/1E3eX8u]