Unified communications (UC) refers to the integration of different communication channels, such as voice, video, and more, into one software system. These services are available at different price levels. The fact that UC brings all channels to one solution makes it easier to stay in touch with your team members and clients throughout the day.
If you are looking for a UC platform, Nextiva offers its NextOS platform that offers phone, email, chat, and text messages all in one window. It also provides customer journey dashboards and analytics to help you better understand your clients and make better business decisions. Click the link below to learn more about NextOS.
UC Meaning & How It Works
In your daily business life, you may use a wide range of different communication tools. If you have your VoIP phone, instant messaging, text, and video chat in different applications, keeping track of all of these tools can be chaotic. As its name implies, unified communications systems bring all of these tools into one service so that all processes are easier to keep track of.
In basic terms, unified communication is quite simple. Rather than have all of these communication tools exist on separate apps with different accounts, UC platforms simply put these channels into one app so that you can switch between conversations with little more than a click. All you need to do is select the channel you want to speak on, and you can switch between channels instantly. In most cases, you can communicate on multiple channels at much.
In addition to convenience, UC also helps put certain conversations into context. For example, you might get a number of complaints that customers never got shipments on a particular item. Without UC, you’d have to switch from your email client to your instant messaging app to bring up the problem to your shipping and receiving department. With a solution like NextOS, you can simply switch tabs within the same solution to bring up the issue.
Another large benefit of UC is that it makes all of your communications searchable within one app. For example, you might have had an important client meeting in the past. If you are looking for any follow-up information regarding the meeting, you can simply type in the client’s name and see all relevant information across all channels. This furthers UC’s usefulness in getting work done more efficiently.
Who UC is Right For
Unified communications can benefit virtually any business user that is looking to put all of their communications channels into one application. There are a range of UC services on the market to meet virtually any unique business need and budget. The fact that modern, connected businesses continually add new communications technologies makes the need for UC even more apparent.
Unified communications is especially helpful for the following users:
- Sales teams: The sales staff of today communicate with clients on social media, email, SMS, and more. UC platforms help agents keep track of these conversations within one application.
- Customer support staff: Customers want to reach out for service on the medium of their choice. While some clients may prefer to make a phone call, a growing number of people would rather use chat or text messaging to solve their problems. UC accommodates this need for omnichannel support.
- Management: Managers need to keep track of conversations between departments, and those departments may use different forms of communication within their teams. With UC, you can foster productive dialogue overall forms of contact.
All told, UC can benefit nearly any modern business users. This is especially true if you have sales or support staff in your company. These tools are designed to help you manage conversations quickly and easily.
Unified Communication Costs
The overall costs of UC functionality will depend entirely on what service you subscribe to. There are free systems and there are also solutions that can cost as much as $79 per user, per month, like the enterprise edition of a product known as Front. You will also have to pay for any additional third-party communication apps that you want to integrate into a UC platform:
- UC Services: Nextiva offers its service starting at $30 per user, per month, while Zoho Cliq offers a free version. There is no shortage of services on the market at all sorts of price points.
- Additional communications app: If your UC platform does not offer a communications channel you are looking for, such as Slack, you can sometimes integrate then. You will have to pay for these services in addition to your UC app.
Ultimately, you will need to gauge your business communications needs and consider a number of options before finding the right UC application for your organization. You also need to make sure whatever solution you choose meets the right balance of features and affordability.
Unified Communications Providers
There are a number of different unified communications applications available today. There are some options dedicated only to unified messaging, while other systems are bundled for free with business phone services. The latter is especially helpful if you do not already have a business phone service in place.
A few of the most well-known providers offering unified communication solutions are:
Nextiva is a business phone system that offers unlimited domestic calling and voicemail. The service also comes with the NextOS platform, which combines phone, text, email, and chat in one application. Pricing starts at $30 per user, per month, on an annual basis.
2. Zoho Cliq
Zoho Cliq, which offers a free version, is a unified communications platform that can pull data from a wide range of different apps. This means that you can bring in your content from systems like Slack or your favorite email client. The service also provides task management features so that you can delegate work to your team members.
Front is a messaging solution that can connect with Gmail, Salesforce, Twitter, and a number of other applications to bring all of your favorite communication tools into one window. The service starts at $9 per user, per month.
Unified Communications Features
Unified communications solutions have a relatively simple task: to provide all of your preferred communications channels in one convenient virtual space. The biggest differentiator between systems is what channels they offer. Other features include mobile apps, reporting, and task management modules.
Most services on the market offer app connecting capabilities for third-party services such as customer relationship management platforms (CRMs), virtual phone services, and more. For example, you could connect your company’s Twitter account and view your feed in the UC window along with all of your other messages. Front also lets you connect your Salesforce account so that you can see all of your view of your client interactions.
UC solutions are usually used via web-based desktop applications. However, a growing number of services offer mobile apps for remote teams or for when workers are traveling. For example, Zoho Cliq offers apps for iOS and Android devices.
Nextiva offers a reporting module for NextOS that provides information on all sorts of communication activities such as call time, total calls, and more. Additionally, Zoho Cliq offers a task management module that allows managers to create and delegate tasks to employees. Most UC platforms offer some form of extra capability.
Pros & Cons of Unified Communications
UC is helpful for any business user that wants to keep all of their conversations in one place. However, it is not appropriate in all cases. Here are some pros and cons of unified communications.
Pros of Unified Communications
- Convenience: Being able to use chat, email, phone, and other channels within one application results in fewer headaches than using a wide range of separate apps.
- Searchability: UC platforms offer search across many different communication mediums.
- Flexibility: Services that offer third-party connectors allow you to add the channels you want to use and essentially configure your own bespoke UC system.
Cons of Unified Communications
- Cost: Most UC solutions cost a monthly fee, and third party services also carry their own costs. Using all of these solutions in conjunction can quickly become expensive.
- Unneeded Functionality: Many smaller businesses may only communicate with themselves and clients over the phone, or via email. If you are not a company that uses many different channels for communication, you may not have any need for a UC solution.
- Human Error: In order to use third-party apps, you will need to go into the settings menu of your UC solution and configure the connection. If you are not technically savvy, this could prove very difficult.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are there any UC platforms that don’t require other applications?
Yes. Nextiva works as a completely independent solution. Other players in the UC market do this as well. This functionality can be used for both external and internal communications purposes.
Do UC platforms offer online file storage?
Yes. Most systems on the market provide at least a few gigabytes of cloud storage for all of your files.
Are UC solutions secure?
Yes. The majority of leading solutions offer standard encryption of all communications. This, in addition to password protection, help keep all of your conversations secure.
Unified communications solve a growing business problem: too many communications apps. By bringing all sorts of different channels under one interface, UC makes it easier to communicate with clients and team members alike. There are plenty of solutions on the market to meet all sorts of budgets.
We recommend Nextiva to any business looking for a UC solution, especially if they don’ already have a phone system in place. The service offers chat, email, phone, and text all at the same time. Click the button below to start your 30-day free trial.