An Overview of Unified Communications: Guest Post from Shayna Kaneshiro, Siemens Communications

Shayna Kaneshiro, of Siemens Communications, gives us an overview of Unified Communications.
Customer relationships, financial fitness and efficient operations help to pave the way for your small business’s success, and with Gartner reporting that there are over 80 million small businesses worldwide, competition is fierce.
Communication is at the core of every relationship, financial transaction and business process. The question is, is a business managing all of these communications in the most productive way? Does it know all of its communications options? If communications is so important, shouldn’t a business be more informed?
SMB Communications Business Impacts
The average small-to-medium-sized business (SMB) uses 6.4 types of communication devices and 4.8 communications applications, according to a 2006 study by Sage Research. This juggling of devices coupled with an increasingly mobile workforce can lead to inefficient communication.
The study also reported that more than 50% of employees use multiple methods to contact someone. This is simply time-consuming and inefficient. Inefficiency in communication can lead to decreased productivity, missed opportunities and ultimately, frustration. It can cause missed deadlines and revenue, and it can allow the competition to get ahead.

What SMB Communications Solution Should Do
A business needs a communications solution that will empower its employees with tools to facilitate increased productivity, connectivity and cost savings.
A communications confidante will tell you that a great communications solution should:

  • Help put an end to communications impediments such as phone tag, unheard voicemails or struggling to determine who will take the next urgent customer call.
  • Provide “built-in” functionality for extended value such as drag and drop conferencing and dynamic voicemail use with message changes based on your calendar. “Built-in” functions also exclude or limit the need to purchase additional hardware.

The Top 5 Built-in Communications Capabilities
There are five capabilities that could help change the way organizations view communications. When researching communications systems, consider the following:
Built-in Presence
Presence uses one screen to show who is available and accessible. Presence gives you knowledge and ultimately helps you to keep frustration low and productivity high.
Built-in, Easy-to-Use, Drag and Drop Conferencing
Built-in drag and drop conferencing allows meetings to be created by dragging and dropping contacts into the conference screen to make both ad-hoc and pre-scheduled calls. The system also calls the contacts automatically. This can decrease travel expenses and if a company uses an external conferencing service, those operational cost can be eliminated as well.
Built-in Fax Message Box
A communications system with a built-in fax message box lets you receive and respond to faxes quickly, just like emails – you can read them, print them, send them, store them and back them up. This gives secure, current and manageable information on one screen and on one system. It means a smoother workflow, helps you to avoid missing an important fax and facilitates increasing productivity.
Built-in Info Status Pop-Ups
Pop-up capability keeps you informed. With info status pop capability for calls, you should be better able to:
Be immediately informed when a call comes through
Record important live phone calls
Immediately address calls with the appropriate action
Info status pop-ups give your organization the tools to help capture that revenue opportunity when the call comes in.
Microsoft Outlook Integration
Ensure that your applications more easily integrate with Microsoft Outlook, to access the capabilities of a more reliable modern communications system without leaving the Outlook inbox. In any line of work, one lost message could result in a lost customer, angry vendor or lost opportunity. With an option to include a toolbar in Outlook, small businesses can access, view, manage, and answer messages from a single screen.
Where the Hunt for Communications Begins and Ends
Looking for a new communications system may be one of the last to-dos on your to list. But you must not overlook it, and should not settle for just a dial tone.
Make communications a priority and empower your employees in their efforts to boost their productivity, improve customer response time and grow your business.