By Patrick Copping, Atia Communications

You may have heard about VoIP, IP telephony and Unified Communications (UC) but what do these really mean for the average business. No matter what size you are, there are significant benefits that include the following and more.

Reduce Overheads

By moving from an old-fashioned telephone system or PBX to UC, you can make immediate cost-savings. If you have more than one site, you can centralise your reception, so that all your calls can be managed by a single team rather than duplicating resources. For multi-site operations you will also save money on call charges because calls between sites will be free. It is not unusual for UC solutions to achieve an ROI within the first 6 months or less.

Support for Flexible Working

With UC, workers are no longer location-dependent and can work flexibly from home, whilst on the move or travelling abroad. This is made possible because all your resources including phone and email communications are accessible via your PC. As long as you have sufficient broadband then calls can be made and transferred to you, just like any other office telephone extension. As a result employees can move between different tasks easily, share data, access a conference call, send an instant message or even take a phone call all in real time. Holding on to valuable staff is important and with UC it becomes more practical to offer more flexible ways of working.

Business Continuity

Think about the recent disruptions that UK business has faced — Snow, volcanic ash, industrial action have all cost the economy millions in terms of lost productivity. By allowing staff to work remotely could have been the answer for thousands of businesses who experienced significant absenteeism because employees couldn’t get into the office. With just a PC, headphones, soft-phone and broadband, staff would still have been available to talk to customers.

Improve your availability

One of the unique things about UC is the real-time presence feature which enables you to see the availability of other users and their communication preferences, such as email or IM (instant messaging). With extended call routing you can re-distribute calls, dependent on presence, to whatever resource is available, so you will never miss a sales call. In turn this can help to boost new sales, encourage repeat business, and most importantly cement customer relationships and loyalty.

In a customer services environment this can be particularly advantageous as it enables agents to identify specialist resources across the company, so they can answer a more complex query. The agent can then seamlessly transfer the call to the specialist whilst the customer waits on the line. This facility greatly improves customer service and first time call resolution.

Increase your green credentials

With a software-based phone system you can of course cut down on unnecessary hardware and because all updates are downloaded you can eliminate packaging. For many users it is also popular to use soft-phones rather than traditional desk phones, so you will never again have to send out-of-date phones to the skip. Of course the other area where you can help the environment is to cut down on travel. By keeping in touch with both colleagues and customers ‘virtually’ you can cut out unnecessary trips as well as save on the costs of both time and petrol.

True Integration of IT applications

Another benefit of UC is that it enables integration between data and communications applications, so you can dial directly from any application whether it’s your accounts or CRM system. You are also better able to respond to customers’ needs because when they call, all their details and buying history will automatically pop up on screen. With software-based UC solutions such as Swyx you can even automatically pull up relevant web-based information that is pertinent to a particular record. For example if you had a customer that was calling from Texas, you could even set up the system so that a weather feed from the region would pop up on-screen.

If you would like to learn more about this subject and how it can benefit your business visit www.atiacomms.com