There is no single definition of a unified communication system, which is why it’s best to talk about the technology in terms of what it does, and not just what it consists of. Put simply, unified communications is exactly what it sounds like – it is a series of technologies and processes that are relied on to bring multiple streams of communication into a cohesive whole. Again, there is no single solution to this approach, so when A/V integrators piece together a unified communication system for a client, they focus more on the client’s needs and goals, and work from there.
Why move to a unified communication system?
Every company, no matter its size, the industry it inhabits or its history, has issues with communication. It’s no mean feat to keep hundreds of people collaborating effectively with each other, but it’s essential to efficient day to day functioning of the company. If people aren’t talking, then money is being wasted. And not only that, as more and more companies adopt unified communications, the cost of not doing so goes up, as those businesses are at a major competitive disadvantage. But how does a unified communication system bring a company’s productivity to new heights?
- Unified communications means everyone is always at the office – Most of the gaps in corporate communications happen when people are away from their desk or their phone. But as any dedicated professional knows, the work day doesn’t always end at 5 p.m., and company time doesn’t stand still while a meeting is in progress. With unified communications, professionals remain in touch even when they are out of the office or busy collaborating with their teams.For example, a voicemail to text service can take a voice message, transcribe into text and automatically forward it to the recipient as a text message. So, if that recipient happens to be in a meeting, they can take a quick peek at their phone and be ready to respond immediately. It’s small gains in times like these that add up.
Most people have a preferred method of communication, especially when they are at home. Some people don’t like being bothered on their phone, others prefer to be alerted immediately when something important comes up. With a unified communication system, professionals can tie multiple methods of communication to a single number or address and customize what happens when someone calls the number or sends a text or e-mail. Not only is this a welcome convenience for the professional, it ensures they are more responsive around the clock.
- A unified communication system saves money in many ways – There is power in expanded communication. If a professional can maintain contact with their team wherever they are, then a company may find it more cost effective to just allow that professional to work from home. This isn’t always feasible, of course, but unified communications at least makes it a possibility, and for many enterprises, it’s one that is worth developing.It’s more than just telecommuting, though. With unified communications, international personnel resources can be harnessed more efficiently, allowing businesses to control their labor costs with better efficacy. And in addition to trimming labor costs, unified communications speed up interactions between people separated by a continent or two, and that also drives down costs.
It doesn’t stop there, either. A unified communication system can incorporate elements like call screening and forwarding, which can make life easier for the company’s receptionists and customer service reps. As a result, the company’s external communications department can speed up call turnaround and handle a greater volume.
- Unified communications strengthen team cohesion – By the time a company decides to move to unified communications, they have likely explored other A/V communication options, like video conferencing. A unified communication system can better integrate advanced technologies like video conferencing, allowing people to connect with a greater range of devices and with an easier to manage interface. The natural result is that teams will utilize conferencing more often for collaboration purposes.There are dramatic benefits associated with modern conferencing and collaboration methods, and unified communications makes them a more realistic option. With conferencing, team members speak to each other face to face, and pick up on all of the nonverbal conversational cues that come with that. There is already plenty of research that demonstrates the power video conferencing has in enhancing cooperation and camaraderie between team members. A unified communication system helps teams jump into conferences from anywhere at any time, usually with just a few button presses. Collaboration is prioritized with a unified communication system.
- Unified communications can better automate additional tasks – Although unified communication is, obviously, about communications first, its potential for integration is nearly limitless. A unified communication system, for example, can be linked with a company’s transactional software, automatically sending out alerts to customer fulfillment personnel when an order is made.Even better, unified communications can be tied to customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, both of which rely on the company’s own databases to function. For example, using unified communications and CRM software, a customer service rep can instantly pull up information on any customer, through any medium they prefer. This gives customer reps the advantage when managing customer relations and allows for more connected, more personalized service. That means happier clients. Unified communication methods can even be used to retrieve previous conversations with clients or past transactions, so if there are any problems with an order, company personnel can verify order details and additional requests right away.
- Unified communications streamline equipment and software management – Since the rise of VoIP communications, thousands of service providers have emerged, each providing their own suite of communication options. This has been a boon to businesses, as the market for internal communication products is extremely robust. However, it can also be difficult to manage all of the services a company is paying for, and a business may pay for a particular product for months without getting any use out of it.A unified communication system seeks to untangle the mess of services that a company is paying for, reducing the number of service providers and bundling communication services together. This does an effective job of reducing costs and it makes it much easier to manage various communication services, usually from a shared interface. In all, it’s a much smarter and much more convenient approach to handling enterprise level communications.
What should be clear by now is that a unified communication system is less about the individual components that make up the system, and more about what the system’s overall approach is to improving communications. A unified communication system typically includes the most modern A/V communication elements, such as conferencing, instant messaging and VoIP calling. But what truly makes the system work is the smart planning and customization that an A/V integrator can provide.