With an increasingly distributed workforce, virtual employees and the rise of the gig economy, the importance of unified communications will rise even further this year. This prediction is particularly relevant for the growing number of nomadic workers who spend large parts of their day on the road or working remotely.
For those staff whose office is transient, whether at home, on the move or in free Wi-Fi zones such as a coffee shop or airport, staying in touch with colleagues or customers becomes even more critical.
Taking advantage of the latest unified communications (UC) technology can really make a difference to the productivity of your business. Here are just 5 key reasons why.
1.Keep staff happy and motivated
A recent National Employee research survey, commissioned by The Employee Awards, revealed that 52 per cent of employees across both private and public sectors, will be searching for new employment in 2018. In parallel, YouGov found 26% of millennials are planning to leave their job within the next six months and that 64% of millennials would like to occasionally work from home and 66% would like to shift their work hours.
One of the main attractions of UC is that it can support flexible working with functionality like ‘rich presence’, so on a smartphone, laptop or iPad, you can see at a glance which colleagues are free to speak, IM (instant message) or set up a video call.
Meanwhile, a ‘single number concept’ means you only have to bother with one phone number and the telephone system will automatically direct incoming calls to appropriate device and location. With the likes of screen sharing or video meetings, you can also overcome the limitations of not being able to meet face-to-face.
2.React quicker to colleagues and customers
With teams often spread across a country or globally, on the surface you might think that making contact with the right person or department becomes more problematic with the risk of telephone tag, but with the latest Unified Communications (UC) systems users can control how calls or requests are circulated, so virtual businesses don’t even need a centralised reception.
Using functionality such as IVR (interactive voice response) a customer can select the right department from a numbered menu or businesses can set up multiple hotlines for the likes of ‘sales’, ‘support’ or ‘accounts’.
To fast-track a VIP customer, you can identify them by their CLI (call line identity) and forward them to the relevant number, device or person, and you can even play them a personalised greeting. When you’re not available to take a call, when at lunch or even on the school run, you can set all or certain communications to another colleague or set the option of taking a message that can later be retrieved via an email.
3. Lower costs
If more staff can work remotely or on the move you will certainly reduce your overall expenses for renting, lighting and heating of premises, and with UC you can also offset any higher mobile phone charges that you are likely to incur by just ‘adding’ your phone system to smartphones, so you can make and receive calls via the business’s unified communications platform, saving thousands of pounds annually.
Of course other costs that can be minimised are travel expenses, with built-in conferencing you can avoid the need for unnecessary face-to-face meetings.
4. Increase sales
Improving customer service through enhanced communication can improve sales conversion rates and customer loyalty and by tracking your call log in the UC system you can follow up any missed sales enquiries.
For virtual businesses, the advantage of cloud and/or software-based communications platform is that you can add new staff members easily, so it is perfect if you need to hire permanent or temporary workers for around the clock customer service during busy times of the year like Black Friday or if you are considering entering international markets.
To improve cash flow you can also integrate your UC solution with your accounting package, allowing you to identifying late payers when they phone through, diverting them straight to the credit control team.
5. Stand out from the competition
Virtual operations are often more agile than their larger counterparts with technologies like unified communications helping start-ups or SMEs to punch above their weight and introduce innovation and differentiation from their market rivals.
Take for example the adoption of softphones. With the built-in ‘skins’ you can design the overall look and feel of your on-screen communications console and brand it with any imagery or colours that you like, you could even introduce your favourite football players or fashion stars as icons for different departments or members of the team.
Another way to surprise your customers by going the extra mile when it comes to personalisation and service is to integrate calls with google maps or other web-based resources, so you can immediately recognise their location and even see whether it’s sunny or raining where they are! Sometimes it’s the small details that make the difference, making both your staff and your customers more loyal over the longer term.
For more information, Swyx has produced a no-nonsense guide, “How SMEs can benefit from cloud-based unified communications” as well as a short video on “The Benefits of cloud-based communications for SMEs“