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What’s all the Buzz About Unified Communications?

Unified communications (UC) is the integration of real-time communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence information, telephony (including IP telephony),video conferencing, data sharing (including web connected electronic whiteboards aka IWB’s or Interactive White Boards, call control and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging(integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). 1

Unified Communications (UC) is not necessarily a single product, but a set of products that provides a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. There is currently no single product that can create a complete UC experience so the most popular solution is to combine multiple products.

Benefits of UC

Unified communications provides a way to bring everything together and improve collaboration among co-workers, partners, vendors, and customers. It’s an investment that can improve productivity and availability, save money, and increase user and customer satisfaction.

  • See the real-time presence and status of co-workers
  • Receive voice messages in an e-mail
  • Make phone calls from a laptop
  • Transfer calls between a smartphone and a desk phone
  • Keep messages accessible from phones, fax machines, PCs, and more
  • Use group calendaring to view calendars and schedule appointments without playing phone tag
  • Access voicemails anywhere and at any time using voicemail-to-text

Examples of UC in Action

UC allows an individual to send a message on one medium and receive the same communication on another medium. For example, one can receive a voicemail message and choose to access it through e-mail or a cell phone. If the sender is online according to the presence information and currently accepts calls, the response can be sent immediately through text chat or video call. Otherwise, it may be sent as a non-real-time message that can be accessed through a variety of media.

Another example of UC in action is when a VoIP hosted PBX system is integrated with a CRM like Salesforce.com. When a call comes in, the CRM will use the caller-id (received from the PBX system) to find the customer data record and show it on the attendants computer screen. In addition, the CRM could be integrated with chat, email, and mapping products to show any previous chat transcripts, emails, and where the customer’s business is located on a map.

How to Integrate UC in Your Business

If you are not already using VoIP, that is a great place to start. With a VoIP hosted PBX system you get a ton of UC features like: voicemail to email, voicemail to text, smartphone access, web based phones (soft-phones), real-time status of calls, conference calling, call recording, call reporting and more. And when you have a VoIP hosted PBX you can easily integrate it with other products like: CRM’s (Salesforce.com), Chat (Liveperson.com), Help Desk Tickets (Zendesk), etc. which enables employees access to not only the customer data but copies of any communication that has taken place with a particular customer (i.e. call reports, call recordings, chats, voicemails, help desk tickets, etc.) at anytime via the web. 

1 Wikipedia