Despite the back and forth of discussions on what type of communications system to deploy — on-premises or through cloud — there is a unique set of advantages unified communications (UC) in the cloud provides startups and SMBs.
Starting a business from the ground up isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is growing a business to meet demand. Both require strategic thinking, clear vision and the right resources. After you’ve squared away all of the business plan and capital details, what are the first things that come to mind to add to your to-do list?
Ensuring you and your employees can communicate with each other as well as the multitudes of potential customers should be a top priority.
Hosted VoIP allows you to do your job and VoIP experts to do theirs
When you’re launching a new business, you have a thousand things that are priority. Whether your phone system works should not be a concern.
Wiring traditional phone lines takes time — lots of time — particularly if you have to retrofit a location, move jacks or add capabilities. Phone carriers are notorious for taking days, weeks or even months to get a business completely functioning. There are plenty of up-front costs as well for equipment and labor. And once you finally have your phones working, it’s up to you to keep them that way.
Hosted VoIP is different. By using a phone network via the Internet that is hosted by the vendor or a third party, you offload the maintenance and future upgrades. If you’re the one typically managing this process or are fortunate enough to have an IT department, you’ll no doubt appreciate the freed-up time to focus on more strategic initiatives.
UC integrates critical enterprise applications to eliminate redundancy, risk and inefficiencies
When you have a typical landline, there’s not much you can do to integrate it with other business applications. They are separate entities, so you and your employees must use alternate software and have manual processes in place to track calls, document conversations and update customer histories.
Unified communications, on the other hand, seamlessly combines multiple business functions, including phone, instant messaging, video conferencing, mobility, presence and collaboration capabilities — even when working remotely. Phones can be integrated with email software like Outlook, CRM applications like Salesforce.com, and other business programs such as HR applicant-tracking systems. When everything is integrated, work is more productive, efficient and manageable.
Part of keeping down costs is using resources more efficiently. In small companies, employees tend to take on less-defined roles than their counterparts in larger organizations. They’re responsible for a variety of different tasks and often rely on outdated technology systems to manage and transition between them. An integrated UC solution helps break down communication silos, making it easier for employees who wear multiple hats to quickly and efficiently switch from one task or role to another.
Scalable UC systems help you prepare for tomorrow’s growth
Another great benefit that UC solutions bring is scalability. Just as a company can start small and grow from a few employees to hundreds, a UC system can expand to accommodate similar growth. Most UC systems include a large selection of additional components, accessories and software. Most people might not need every bell and whistle available but will appreciate the opportunity to expand when the time comes. And when that time arrives, growing is easy. For many systems, a simple application of a license removes all restrictions of an SMB system and enables customers to take advantage of an enterprise-ready system scalable up to thousands of users.
It’s not only about attracting customers, it’s about not alienating them
A recent study of nearly 1,500 U.S. SMBs found that attracting and attaining new customers and increasing business growth are the top business issues for SMBs, according to Techaisle, a technology analysis and market research firm.
When customer satisfaction and service are your primary business drivers, a UC system can ensure that you have consistent uptime and system performance, so employees are always available to answer calls and address pressing issues.
Without the ability to ensure 24/7 communications availability, regardless of where consultants or remote workers are located, there’s a risk of alienating customers, or — even worse — losing business. A reliable UC system makes it easy to be a mobile, functional employee as well as to centrally administer a system that enables maximum customer service.
For growing businesses, the specifics of technology are not at the forefront of people’s mind, but the ability to get their work done certainly is.
When phones work immediately, so can you.
Mark Roberts is chief marketing officer at ShoreTel, leading marketing strategy, product marketing, demand generation, branding and external communications. He joined ShoreTel in December 2013, bringing 20 years of technology sales, marketing and product management experience.