The term ‘local business’ is a broad one, encompassing tiny start-ups with a handful employees and much larger companies which are well ingrained in a particular community. However, the need for comprehensive and affordable channels of communication is universal in the modern marketplace.
Companies which adapt to changing circumstances and customer expectations by adopting a unified communications strategy will flourish. Those less willing to accept the need for progress could find growth stifled.
Unified communications is also a mutable term that is difficult to define, which means that approaching this type of setup requires businesses to think about their individual requirements rather than trying to use a generic template.
Having said that, there are some important tactics to consider and some core technologies which need to be in place to ensure that unified communications can become a powerful weapon in the arsenal of a local business. With that in mind, here is a look at some UC strategies and services which should be able to help firms keep pace with their regional and national rivals.
Without adequate levels of connectivity a local business will be incapable of making the most out of UC services, so this should be the starting point and a priority for any organisation.
While connectivity within the office is important, it is the type of solution which delivers landline web access to this location that is of greater importance, as well as being potentially problematic. You will need a superfast internet connection of some form and it is best to invest in one which is endowed with the greatest amount of bandwidth available in your area.
If ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) connectivity, delivered via a standard copper telephone line, is all that is available in your area then this might be sufficient, provided that your operation is suitably compact.
Ideally you will be able to harness FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) or FTTP (fibre to the premises), both of which offer significantly faster data rates than ADSL.
UC services are almost entirely digital, which is part of the reason that connectivity is so important. However, in certain circumstances there may be a degree of backwards compatibility with older analogue kit, which means that certain legacy systems and hardware components can remain in place even after the leap to UC has been made.
Being able to communicate with clients, colleagues and business partners over the phone is still vital for many businesses, although the tools available to help achieve this have changed.
UC can integrate VoIP, A/V conferencing and a variety of platforms which are oriented around enhancing the performance of call centres.
VoIP is a growing presence in both enterprise and consumer spheres, which means you may well be familiar with the basics.
Unlike analogue telephony, you need not host all the hardware and software for controlling VoIP locally, which means a third party provider can be relied upon to deliver remote management for this type of platform. This not only lowers the costs of hardware and maintenance for your company, but means that you can enjoy improved levels of monitoring and a wealth of powerful features.
Unified voice mail, call forwarding and other facets will make it easier to handle inbound and outgoing communications. Even if you are based in a particular area you can adopt non-geographic numbers to broaden your customer base and much more besides.
UC is perfect for companies that may operate across multiple sites, because it makes it easy for all communications to be handled centrally by a provider, rather than requiring that each premises has its own telecoms setup and technical staff.
Voice calls may be an enduring feature of business communications, but digital messaging has risen to prominence in a major way over the last couple of decades.
Now many business users expect to be able to stay in touch will co-workers and customers through a variety of messaging channels and with UC it is easy to amalgamate a multitude of these services so that they operate in synch and are thus able to enhance productivity.
The core service of email can be augmented by the inclusion of instant messaging for real time communications between two or more parties, while some businesses will choose to add in older solutions such as SMS and fax.
A UC provider should be able to intertwine these disparate threads for local businesses, so even if you are already using some or all of them it will be much less trouble to take full advantage of them in the future.
The ultimate in UC convenience is generated by the ability to take all of the services which are available in the office and transfer them to a mobile device. With modern smartphones this is entirely possible and has become something which is making even small businesses far more agile.
Calls directed to a business landline can be forwarded to portable devices without the caller even being aware of this process, instant messages can be received on the move and even VoIP services are accessible from contemporary mobile devices.
For local businesses there is the option to either procure the necessary handsets as part of the IT budget and pass them on to staff, or to take a BYOD (bring your own device) approach, the latter of which is becoming increasingly popular.
BYOD means that staff can access UC business services from their own smartphones, which lowers the cost of adoption for the company and makes full use of hardware that is almost certainly being used within the enterprise’s ecosystem, even if in an unsanctioned capacity.
Software & Business Process
UC can become ingrained in the business process of a local firm and indeed this is desirable because with the right combination of services it will help to revolutionise the way that daily tasks are performed.
Some UC providers will deliver a holistic software package, often hosted remotely, which allows staff to manage all aspects of their communications services from a central hub.
This will alert them to the availability of colleagues and other contacts so that they do not need to sit around waiting for a response to arrive after a query has been sent, while the mobile solutions allow them to unshackle themselves from their desks and remain productive even if they are out of the office.
It is difficult to overstate how important it is for businesses to approach UC as a type of telecommunications setup which can be moulded into almost any shape and made appropriate for a wide array of organisations.
Adoption strategies will be like snowflakes; each one superficially identical but always different if you look close enough. The only foolish strategy is one of hesitancy, because the faster you make a decision about adoption the quicker you will be able to enjoy the benefits of UC.
This article was supplied by Garry Hudson, an employee of unified communications providers Daisy Group.