This article is part of a larger series on Unified Communications.
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is replacing standard, separate business communication tools. UCaaS platforms bundle calling, texting, conferencing, and collaboration tools into more efficient, affordable, flexible, and scalable solutions that live entirely in the cloud. Learn how businesses are using UCaaS solutions to better collaborate and communicate internally and externally.
How Unified Communications as a Service Works
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS), empowers employees to collaborate and work from anywhere on any device. They can log in to a full-featured UCaaS platform from their mobile phone, desktop, or web browser to communicate internally with team members or externally with customers—all from a single application.
Without unified communications as a service capabilities, employees must use various devices and multiple applications to solve issues. For example, an employee might use a messaging app like Slack on their mobile phone to collaborate with teammates and Skype to video conference with customers, but then need to email files to customers or co-workers from their laptop or desktop.
A UCaaS platform enables business users to conduct all those activities (and more) in the cloud through a single application. Instead of switching between devices and applications, users can quickly and seamlessly open a short message service (SMS text message) thread, view a customer’s call history, and internally message teammates.
How UCaaS Helps Businesses
UCaaS solutions aren’t limited to your sales or customer support departments—your entire business benefits from using a universal communications system. Here are a few of the ways unified communications as a service platforms help business:
Increased Collaboration Between Colleagues
The pandemic has made internal collaboration tools more important than ever. It’s not always possible to drop by your colleague’s desk to chat or have in-person team meetings. Your business needs reliable, scalable tools that enable your team to interface in the most efficient way to solve issues.
Sometimes a private one-to-one chat is needed to discuss and solve a problem. Other times, you may need to get your distributed workforce into a video conferencing session where you can share screens and whiteboard. Or you might even want to move from a customer call to a video conference where you can review a proposal without dropping the call.
This encapsulates the power of UCaaS. UCaaS tools put seamless, versatile real-time communication and collaboration tools into the hands of everyone on your team whether they’re using mobile devices on the go, desktops at work, or home offices.
Efficient Access to Company Information
Whether you’re launching a new product, updating your return policy, or changing hours for the holiday schedule, your teams need this information delivered in a timely manner on the channels they use for work every day. UCaaS platforms enable you to quickly communicate company information across various channels to ensure it gets disseminated.
Once new information has been sent out, your team needs to be able to go back and reference it. UCaaS platforms often offer intranet or intranet integrations, giving employees a one-stop shop for company documents and policies. Intranet capabilities could include access to Human Resource policies and procedures, training and tutorial resources, sales and marketing collateral, business blogs, information technology (IT) support, and more.
Effectively, UCaaS platforms become a bundle deal for unified communication solutions. Instead of purchasing software separately for various communication needs, providers for unified communications as a service include it all in a single package.
With UCaaS, you can scale your plan up or down to satisfy your company’s changing needs. When you need to grow your teams, purchase additional licenses or add features by moving to a higher-tiered plan. Alternatively, if you need to cut back, simply reduce your license count, or move to a lower-tier package if you find your business isn’t using all of a plan’s features.
UCaaS is more affordable compared to on-premise UC solutions. On-premise deployments require upfront installation and ongoing maintenance costs. Plus, scaling (or even just maintaining) on-premise hosted communications may require your business to hire consultants and technicians to install hardware and software updates, perform maintenance, and train your team.
With UCaaS, you typically pay for only licenses and connectivity. Additional expenses usually only come in the form of optional add-ons, like devices, or contact center as a service (CCaaS) functionality upgrades.
New Methods to Communicate With Customers
Customer communication is evolving, and UCaaS helps your business innovate and accommodate changing consumer preferences and expectations. Today’s consumers prefer to chat with businesses via email and text more than any other medium. Moreover, companies that honor customers’ communication preferences are rewarded 75% of the time with a purchase, website visit, or some other desired outcome.
Did you know?
83% of consumers prefer email for brand communication, but texts are more than twice as popular when communication is urgent. (Source: Twilio)
With UCaaS, you’re able to create an omnichannel communication experience. Your customers and prospects will have a singular and consistent experience with your business, regardless of which channel they prefer to use.
For example, if a customer calls your company with an issue today and texts you with a follow-up question tomorrow, they won’t have to start the process over and have disjointed communications. Your agents will be able to see the previous conversations (regardless of the device or channel they took place) and be able to pick up where things left off.
Work & Collaborate From Anywhere
Customers want to find answers to their questions immediately, whether it’s 8:00 at night or 1:00 in the morning. According to research from Toister, nearly a third of consumers expect an email response from businesses within an hour or less, but most companies take at least 12 hours to respond.
To satisfy customer demand, your teams need the right solutions. UCaaS platforms empower your employees to work from desktops, mobile phones, tablets, or web browsers—anywhere they have an internet connection. Plus, you don’t have to invest in additional devices to mobilize your workforce. Bring your own device (BYOD) policies let your team use devices they already own to access their UCaaS tools.
When a phone call or text message isn’t enough, and an in-person meeting isn’t feasible due to geographic constraints or even a global pandemic, the next best thing is video conferencing. Video conferencing enables face-to-face communication one-to-one or in group settings using tools that are available online regardless of the user’s location or device.
You can troubleshoot problems with customers, share your screen for tutorials, or present a slide show deck in a team meeting. According to a Gallup, 45% of the U.S. workforce works from home part of the time, and 25% work remotely all the time. For permanently distributed teams and hybrid-remote work setups, video conferencing is the go-to solution for company meetings and collaboration.
Many UCaaS platforms include a feature known as “presence” or agent status. Presence lets call center agents display their real-time availability, helping supervisors and other agents know if they’re currently offline, engaged in another conversation, or available and ready to help.
Agent status improves your team’s call transferring efficiency and reduces the number of calls that go to voicemail. It also protects your employee’s work-life balance by allowing them to step away from their work to take regular breaks, eat meals, refresh themselves, and complete other necessary tasks.
Monitoring agent presence can also give managers performance and productivity-improving insights. For example, if not enough agents are available during evening hours, you may want to hire additional help or adjust scheduling. If an overabundance of agents are available in the morning, you can adjust schedules to decrease hands on deck during those hours.
Top Providers for UCaaS
Fortunately, businesses have quite a few options to choose from when searching for the right UCaaS provider. However, each provider’s platform delivers different features, communication channels, and scalability. We found the following four platforms to be the top UCaaS providers on the market:
RingCentral is the leader in voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) communication. Its unified communications as a service solution empowers businesses with a range of communication channels, including call, text, team message, fax, audio conferencing, and video conferencing.
RingCentral provides businesses with advanced call handling features, extensive third-party integrations, and a robust open application programming interface (API) developers love. Businesses can get started on the entry-level plan for just $19.99 per user, per month. Learn more about its powerful UC solutions in our full RingCentral review.
Nextiva offers similar features and channels to RingCentral and allows for higher participant caps and improved customer service, but fewer integration capabilities. Users enjoy unlimited participants on audio and video conferencing calls when they upgrade to Nextiva’s Enterprise plan.
Nextiva users also get unique features like Call Pop, an informational pop-up box that tells an agent everything about an inbound caller before they answer the phone. Plans start at $21.95 per user, per month. Our expert Nextiva review will give you more insights about what the platform offers by way of UC services.
GoTo Connect is the better option for small teams looking for a budget-friendly unified communications solution. While GoTo Connect’s entry-level plan costs $19.00 per user, per month, its most full-featured plan only costs $36.00 per user, each month. This is relatively cheap, especially compared to Nextiva’s $65.95 Ultimate plan.
GoTo Connect is also a great option if your business makes a lot of international calls. RingCentral boasts real-time analytics and automatic call recordings, but GoTo Connect has free international calling to more than 50 countries and a more user-friendly mobile and desktop app. Find out RingCentral vs GoTo Connect stack up in our head to head review.
Zoom Phone is a newcomer to UC, but its competitive combination of price and features is compelling, especially for budget-conscious companies. Monthly plans start at just $10 per user and include access to all of Zoom Phone’s features regardless of which plan you choose. Users get access to robust business phone system features like interactive voice response (IVR), call parking, advanced call handling, team messaging, and team presence.
Advantages & Disadvantages of a UCaaS Service
UCaaS platforms are essential for some businesses but might be overkill for others. Here’s a quick list of pros and cons to help you determine whether it’s right for your business:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between UCaaS & VoIP?
VoIP, which stands for voice-over-internet-protocol, typically refers to voice business calling services like inbound and outbound calls and audio conferencing. UCaaS, which stands for unified communications as a service, expands these communication offerings to include channels like text, chat, video, and file sharing.
What is the difference between UCaaS & CPaaS?
UCaaS platforms are turnkey solutions that house all the communication tools your business uses in a single cloud-based platform. Communication platform as a service (CPaaS) is also a cloud-based platform, but instead of delivering a full suite of features and channels, it empowers IT teams to customize the solution with SDK (software development kit) and API integrations to meet a business’ specific needs.
What are the essential features of a UCaaS provider?
The plans offered by various UCaaS providers offer similar as well as unique features. But on a basic level, UCaaS features include voice, video, text, chat, and video. In addition, the provider needs to enable access to these channels across mobile, desktop, and web browsers.
UCaaS solutions are transforming the ways businesses build and maintain relationships with customers. They make it easier for internal teams to collaborate whether they’re in-office, remote, or a mix of both. UCaaS’ cloud-based advantages make it more affordable, scalable, and flexible compared to on-premise UC or separate communication tools.
Try UCaaS by starting a free trial with RingCentral to get access to all the channels your business needs to communicate with team members and customers. Plus, RingCentral provides hundreds of integration capabilities, ensuring tools like your customer relationship management (CRM) platform and other applications will work seamlessly with RingCentral. Everything is going to the cloud—and so is the future of communications.