Imagine you’re reading an article online. (Maybe even this one. The one you’re looking at right now.)
And then, suddenly, someone walks in the room and starts reciting the article to you, out loud. And as soon as you get used to it, they leave the room, the phone rings, and a strange voice picks up where they left off. Then your mobile device beeps. You see a fourth person has texted you a single paragraph.
Maybe just this one.
And finally you get a push notification that the article will be wrapped up in an email attachment that’ll hit your inbox any… minute… now.
Do you think you’d understand the content?
Would you even try?
Probably not. Yet this is exactly how millions of us do our jobs every day. Phone in one hand, laptop open in front of us, chat streams and video calls progressing simultaneously.
Miscommunication kills productivity. And the solution may be staring us in the face.
(Literally, if you’re looking at a computer right now.)
What’s Unified Communications? Exactly what it sounds like.
Wikipedia defines “Unified Communications” as a business concept describing the integration of chat, voice, presence information, audio, mobility features, web and video conferencing, desktop and data sharing, call control, voicemail, email, text and, believe it or not, fax.
And that’s not even the full list!
Maybe that’s why UC is such a hard thing to define. It’s almost everything. With it, you can wrap literally all your communication streams together on the device of your choice.
And it’s becoming a must-have for two reasons.
First, bandwidth has caught up to technology. UC runs on VoIP. And while VoIP has been in place for two decades, bandwidth constraints used to impact call quality. For most of America today, those constraints have disappeared.
And second, workers are demanding it. Maybe it’s the prevalence of remote work. Or maybe it’s the sheer array of devices and channels we’re all expected to keep an eye on. Either way, businesses are realizing they have to aggregate conversations to ensure they make sense.
UC lives in the cloud. Or right next door. Your call.
All this technology has to be housed somewhere. And there are three basic options.
- On-premise solutions are usually picked for financial reasons. For instance, certain government contracts require the switch to VoIP to be treated as a capital expenditure instead of a service.
- Private cloud means that everything is hosted by your provider. (We have a suggestion, if you want…) It’s perfect for small and midsize businesses who want tier one support from a company they trust. This is also the most secure option.
- Public cloud is the choice for big corporations who need specific integrations or who already partner with large video conferencing services.
Want to see Unified Communications in action? Meet Barb.
With UC, almost everything can be customized to your business. How many employees, clients, and locations do you have? What channels do they prefer? What level of security do you need? It all blends together to create the right solution.
And explaining all the features and options? Well, that’d become a very long article.
So instead, let’s tell a story about a customer service rep named Barb.
It’s eight-thirty on a Tuesday. Barb has just gotten her coffee and settled into her chair at The Friendly Furnace Company when she sees an incoming call pop up on her computer monitor. It’s a contractor named Pete.
Barb has never spoken to Pete before, but there’s a record of his past service calls on her screen. And she sees the region he works in, too.
Pete tells Barb he’s at a customer’s location, and doesn’t recognize the error code on their malfunctioning furnace.
“It’s like, um, one red flash and then three yellow, or maybe orange, but one is kinda longer than the others.”
Without hanging up, Pete and Barb turn their phone call into a video chat. Pete holds his phone up to the furnace so Barb can see the error code for herself. She quickly searches her database for a PDF of the instructions and sends the file to Pete, again without leaving the call.
They hang up.
Pete fixes the furnace.
Barb finishes her coffee.
And the entire transaction is captured in The Friendly Furnace Company’s CRM. So next time Pete calls, whoever picks up the phone has instant access to all the information they need, too.
In the past, that exchange would have been separate calls, video conferences and email attachments. And all of them would have disappeared as soon as they ended.
But those days are over.
That’s Unified Communications at work.
“I don’t care how it works. I care how it works for me.”
Every business is unique. They have real people working for them, with customer concerns and opportunities they never could have predicted. So UC will play a different role in each of them.
For one, UC might be the key to a smarter CRM.
For another, it might just be a way to give employees a little brain space back.
How will UC help your business?
Take a breather from the texts, chats, calls and emails and just imagine.