Unified Communications, or UC, is an ever changing technology that is merging, voice, chat, presences management, video, mobility, call control and other features and putting them on our laptops, smartphone and other devices. UC allows busy people to stay in touch and respond quickly to the needs of others both inside and outside the office. It allows for better customer service, shorter time frames on projects and better communications all around.
The benefits of unified communications can help you enhance productivity within your job. I’m going to share just a few ways UC helps with my productivity and time management. There are many more features than the ones I will touch on in this article, these are just the ones that I find most valuable for my everyday use.
Incorporating the Use of Unified Communications into Everyday Work
Unified communications have changed the way I work and interact with other employees as well as customers. How about you, has it made your work life easier? Unified communications are made up of several different communications types.
- Voicemails showing up in my email account
- My office direct dial number or my intercom number ringing on my cell phone
- Soft Phones
- Instant messaging
- Emails showing up on my smartphone, my IPad and my laptop
These are Unified communications or UC that I use every day to be more productive, answer client or coworker calls quicker and move projects to completion faster.
Features and Benefits of Unified Communications
1. Voicemail to Email
Getting my voicemails sent directly to my email is my favorite feature. This UC feature allows me to see who the voicemail is from and listen to it as a .wav file across my laptop, IPad or smartphone. If I have five voicemails in my Outlook, I can listen to the most important one first and then respond accordingly. If I see that the owner of Taylored Systems, Bill Taylor, has sent or transferred a voicemail to me, I can listen to it and take the appropriate action, then listen to client and co-workers voicemails afterwards.
This unified communications feature allows me to listen to my voicemails if I’m a few minutes early to a meeting or catch up on my voicemails as I leave a client’s location. This feature allows me to enhance my own productivity with only a few minutes.
I have used this feature for so long, that I’m not sure I even remember how to retrieve a voicemail using the phone on my desk. The day of having a voice mail button on your phone to retrieve messages is gone for most people and businesses.
2. Find me Follow me
One of benefits to using unified communications is anybody who calls my DID number gets me, if I’m able to answer the phone. My number rings both my desk phone and my smart phone at the same time. So if I am in our customer service department answering a question and a customer calls me, I get the call and it does not go to voicemail. The same for an internal call, or a transferred call, they conveniently ring both of my phones.
“According to Sage Research 36% of the time employees fail to contract their intended co-worker on the first time they try.
As most would agree, I would much rather talk to our co-workers or clients real time and not play phone tag and make multiple attempts to reach them during the day.
3. Instant Messaging
Instant messaging is a UC feature that our customer service staff uses often. I don’t use it much, but when I need it I love using it. It is not unusual for me to get a call from a client asking when a technician will be on site or what the status of a service ticket might be. Though our Zultys VoIP system I can send an IM to customer service and they can give me the answer while I am talking to the client, which avoids putting them on hold or asking for a call back number. There are no delays in finding the answer whilst using this feature.
IM through the Zultys VoIP keeps the messaging private, but the VoIP server keeps a record of it so we know what was said. It allows us to send real time information back to the customer service department if we need to make changes or update a tickets.
4. Soft Phone
A soft phone is software running on my laptop and smartphone that is very important to me. I like visual indicators and at a glance I can see my voice mails, call logs, directory, and I can highlight a number to have it be called. I use my softphone to make all of my calls. I simply reach for the handset on my phone to talk, or I could use a USB handset or headset and not even have the phone on my desk.
My softphone allows me to listen to a voicemail and then drag it and drop it to a co-worker for them to listen to. I can even transfer a call from a customer to our service department while I am talking to another customer so the customer gets fast prompt service. This feature is very useful and is one of the helpful benefits of unified communications.
Common Unified Communication Challenges
The biggest unified communication challenges seem to be with the IT staff remembering there are voice applications running on the LAN and being routed to the internet. Changes to your LAN, your IP address or your ISP can all cause these features to quit working. But a little pre-planning and advance notice when changes are scheduled to be made can prevent these issues and not cause down time for your business.
Today there are a lot of applications running across the LAN and the WAN and as IT and Voice professionals, we must remember that changes to the network can cause applications to fail.
Possibly the only actual drawback to UC is that you and I are always available. The lines between work and play quickly become blurred and immediate responses or feedback become expected norm. This can make it difficult to find some down time. Implementing some guidelines and setting expectations so this is not expected can greatly help in this area. I think the benefits of unified communications far outweigh the challenges.
Keeping Communication Flowing within your Business
According to Sage Research “on average, companies with UC Presence save 32 minutes per day in missed calls.”
In the fast pace world we live in today, who can’t benefit from another 30 minutes in our work day. More than just the saving of time, the unified communications features also:
- Help keep projects moving forward
- Make easier connections with one-number
- Display the company number and not a mobile number
- Have all your contact the same
- Give visual indicators
- and allow drag and drop of applications.
Unified Communications should be an important part of your communications plan for your business. Just like the fax machines of the 1980’s – soft phones, video conferencing and chat are all important tools for the workforce of today. Speak with a Taylored Systems representative today to learn more about these business communication solutions.