Originally published by Small Business Currents
During the pandemic, most organizations were required by social distancing mandates to adapt to remote or hybrid work. This search for services that would support their move to a fully remote environment is when many small businesses first discovered Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). UCaaS is cloud-delivered communication services, such as conference calling and zip code routing, which can be accessed from any device, anywhere an Internet connection is available.
Also during the pandemic, millions of employees left their jobs in search of something new, and for many, that search led them to entrepreneurship. The Great Resignation spurred a record-breaking 5.4 million new business applications in 2021. As these startups and small businesses evolve, understanding the benefits of UCaaS may influence strategic business decisions that lead to greater operational efficiencies.
UCaaS enables organizations and their employees expansive flexibility. Mandated remote work enabled many to work from home for the first time, and ultimately, many of those workers grew to appreciate a more flexible work environment. As organizations develop or alter their business plans and consider their growth strategies for 2023 and beyond, one decision they now must make is whether they are going to require employees to go to an office and work in person, adhere to a hybrid schedule, or embrace a fully remote work culture.
UCaaS services can enable all these options, leaving the decision to the business owner rather than technological limitations. UCaaS also gives businesses additional features that allow them to route calls, store call recordings, schedule call queues, and send emails and fax. Employees can access UCaaS services from any device or location with an Internet connection, enabling as much flexibility as business owners and their organizations will allow.
Enhanced Control & Productivity
Most UCaaS services can be managed via an easy-to-use web portal that empowers customers to enable services and set their preferences. This level of flexibility and control gives customers the freedom to customize their work environment based on the needs of their employees and their business type, without requiring support from an IT professional. The straightforward user interface allows even non-technical employees to make service changes.
For example, when working remotely, organizations still need to receive calls just as they would if they were in their office. UCaaS customers can enable call forwarding in a web portal and route calls to their home phone or cell phone in seconds. Many UCaaS providers also provide access to talk, text, and voicemail functionality from a browser, transforming a laptop into a mobile office. Additionally, mobile apps can enable customers to make and receive calls from their regular extension, conduct text conversations, and even check their faxes.
The ease of use of UCaaS services lends enhanced productivity. Employees can access all their business communication services in one interface, making it easier for them to collaborate with co-workers through team chat, SMS, conferencing, file sharing, and more. Regardless of where employees are, they have access to business communication services via one platform, which means greater productivity, even while on the go.
Security & Scalability
Streamlining business communication services to one encrypted solution helps ensure sensitive data is protected. It also alleviates the need to hire IT support or have an internal team navigate and monitor multiple communications tools and platforms for security concerns. This layer of protection enables organizations to keep their customer information safe and narrows the need for and the burden on IT support.
UCaaS also seamlessly supports businesses as they scale. For most businesses, growth is a primary business goal. Due to its ease of use, customers can easily add users and communications services, deploy new equipment, and onboard employees quickly.
Improve Customer Service
While UCaaS services provide several benefits to support the internal workings of an organization, they can also provide external benefits, such as improving customer service. With more communication options, such as messaging and conferencing, and integration with CRM tools, customer service representatives can track down answers faster and provide more accurate and complete information to end users.
Other integrations are also improving the customer experience. For instance, artificial intelligence has advanced significantly in areas such as natural language processing, decision-making, and predictive analysis. When AI is integrated with UCaaS, AI can offer greater personalization throughout the customer experience to improve interactions. For instance, AI-enhanced communications tools can answer customer questions and provide step-by-step instructions to resolve issues.
While many startups and small businesses were first introduced to UCaaS during the pandemic to meet their immediate, short-term needs, the reality is the benefits of UCaaS are plentiful and here to stay. The flexibility, productivity, scalability, and customer service advantages that UCaaS provides can support the needs of startups and small businesses today and help them reach their next stage of growth. As startups and small businesses progress, understanding the longer-term benefits of UCaaS may inspire new or changes to strategic business decisions that lead to accelerated growth.