Why Unified Comms Is The Champion of Hybrid Working

24th May 2021

Remote working just works. Countless companies have learnt that remote working boosts moraleincreases productivity, and reduces employee turnover.

As the world slowly moves on from COVID-19, many organisations are opening their eyes to the positive change that remote and hybrid working arrangements can provide, having used the pandemic as an unexpected test case.

Some workers took to the #WFH (Working From Home) revolution like ducks to water, revelling in the reduced distractions and fluid work-life balance. Other workers found that they need that demarcation in space and time in order to get into “work mode” – sometimes also sorely missing the social interaction and water-cooler chatter.

So, with personnel in both camps, what’s an employer to do? Well, with hybrid working, each individual can decide where they feel most productive and comfortable – and favour spending time there.

However, in order to achieve a true hybrid work environment, you need the right tools on your side. Tools that bridge the gap between home working, on-site working, and the spaces in between. Cloud-based productivity tools like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspaces have been invaluable for those working from home during the pandemic, but they don’t quite solve the need for decentralised telecoms and voice calling.

But cloud-based VoIP telephony is more than just possible – it’s the future!  With the help of a little thing called unified communications.

What is Unified Comms (UC)?

Unified communications, often shortened to “unified comms” or just “UC”, refers to solutions that integrate multiple enterprise communication channels into one platform. This can include telephony, text messaging, video conferencing, team collaboration, file sharing, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and more depending on the individual UC platform. You may also see the term UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) from time to time.

Benefits of Unified Comms

  • Working Flexibility: Many UC platforms are totally cloud-based so all your staff need is an internet connection and their PC, laptop, or smartphone in order to use your telecoms and collaborate as they would normally on site.
  • Reduced Costs: Rather than investing in multiple software solutions and costly telecoms hardware, organisations can incorporate a more flexible OpEx approach to traditionally CapEx comms and telephony expenses.
  • Increased productivity: Without having to hop between different phone, video conferencing, file sharing, collaboration, and relationship management platforms, your team can save time and avoid pesky tech compatibility problems.
  • Breaks Down Data Silos: Rather than keeping information in separate contact, CRM, and file sharing repositories, all business-critical operations and data is present in the UC system for central sharing and collaboration.

UCaaS & Hybrid Working – A Perfect Match!

Hybrid Working: A Telecoms Conundrum

In the early days of the first 2020 lockdown, organisations scrambled to find ways to share files, meet, and collaborate digitally, with many settling on Microsoft’s or Google’s productivity suites.

But with productivity and collaboration taken care of, many SMEs simply taped over the cracks when it came to telecoms. Instead of investing in specialist remote telephony systems, some smaller organisations simply forwarded their landline calls to mobiles and favoured handing out a team member’s mobile number in lieu of their work landline and extension.

“Making do” like this only works to an extent. You have no way of forwarding calls to colleagues; properly managing large volumes of calls; or using the same inbound call rules and automation that your callers are accustomed to.

So, with hybrid working becoming more of a long-term trend, it’s time to move away from temporary fixes and make decentralised, digital telecoms a more permanent measure.

Unlike traditional on-premises telephony systems, there is no expensive, cumbersome hardware to house and maintain with cloud-based, unified VoIP solutions. Because they’re totally cloud-based, the whole system can be used and managed from any device with an internet connection.

In fact, you don’t even need to keep your desktop phones if you don’t want to. All analogue PSTN telephony is handled digitally, so all your team need in order to take and make calls is a stable internet connection, an appropriate PC or laptop, and a suitable headset (though even that’s not technically essential). Some digital telephony solutions even let you manage calls through your browser, so in those cases you don’t need to install a thing!

Understandably, this is great for any workplace looking to make the move to hybrid working. Regardless of whether a team member is in the office, at home, or even somewhere like a cafe, they’ll still be able to enjoy the same telephony that they would otherwise only have access to on site.

VoIP telephony systems will let you import your current landline number(s), transfer your inbound calling logic, use the same auto attendant flows, set up the same extensions as before, and use the phone system in exactly the same way that you can with any current analogue set up.

A Hybrid Call Centre? It’s Possible!

On any given day, a call centre employee may need to juggle taking calls, providing great customer service, using CRM functions, collaborating, attending meetings – the list goes on. Unified comms serve as a single pane of glass through which they can do all of this (and more) without bouncing between different systems and screens.

But it gets better. Gone are the days when call centre staff all need to be in the same building in order to operate. With unified comms, your call operatives can be based anywhere in the world and still put on the same harmonised front to external callers, with access to central telephony functions and contact data.

Let’s be honest – working in a call centre can be taxing. Yet flexible working arrangements can do wonders for morale and productivity. And happy, comfortable call centre staff tend to make for happy, fulfilled customers and callers.

Features and Integrations Galore!

When you move to a unified communications system, you’ll wonder what you ever did without it. Obviously, the features on offer differ between providers, but there are a few dependable through lines that you can swear by.

Many UC tools have some kind of shared contacts system, so you can easily share contact details between teams and keep everyone on the same page. Depending on the solution you choose, this can extend to full CRM integrations that match caller IDs to CRM entries, sync call history to CRM records, and build custom sales and support workflows.

Unified comms tools can also sync with your productivity suite of choice, so team members won’t receive calls when their calendar says they’re busy; staff availability is universally visible for easy appointment-making; and email and call data can be fluidly recorded in your CRM.

Digital telephony systems also allow for excellent call training too, with many providing options to listen in on conversations, whisper functionality, and even the ability to “barge” in (yes, that’s what it’s called) if needed. And of course, because it’s all happening in the cloud, the caller, trainer, and trainee can be in three completely different locations around the globe.

Many digital UC systems also provide call analytics, so you can see how many calls are missed, average call durations, call handling efficiency – basically any metric that pertains to telephony that’s important to you!

And that’s all before we get on to handy basics like emailing recorded voicemails, voicemail transcription, auto-out-of-hours, and more.

Video Meetings: No More Platform-Hopping

Post-pandemic, we’re all intimately acquainted with the numerous video conferencing platforms out there. Having the “Zoom, Teams, or Meet?” conversation with those you intend to speak with online is almost as ubiquitous as “you’re on mute!”

Many unified solutions feature fully integrated video conferencing solutions that are just as easy to use internally and externally. Some solutions even allow for in-depth video collaboration tools like digital whiteboards, classrooms, and polling.

The Big PSTN Switch-Off in 2025

The UK’s analogue PSTN telephone networks are being switched off in 2025 and you won’t be able to buy a new analogue phone line from 2023 onwards.

Why? Because PSTN networks are aging and internet networks are getting faster and better every single day. Modern broadband speeds are more than capable of handling both internet usage and voice communications, so BT Openreach are retiring PSTN and advising that people adopt VoIP telephony as soon as possible. After all, what’s the point in maintaining old, analogue infrastructure when new, digital networks can do both tasks?

2025 may seem like a long way away. But if you act now, you’ll eradicate your future telecoms downtime when the switch happens. Besides, those who leave it until the last minute could potentially risk getting hit with far higher “desperation prices ” as the late adopters scramble to switch!

If you’re an organisation of any size and you’re looking to grow in the next few years (and beyond), you’re in a great position to make the leap to digital telephony before you grow any further.

Hope this doesn’t sound too disparaging towards market pricing!

Save Money

We alluded to this one earlier but it’s so important that it deserves a bit more elaboration. Rather than spending money on separate on-premises phone hardware, calling plans, line rental, online collaboration tools, and the various productivity features we’ve detailed above, would it not be better to pay a simple, easily budgetable, monthly OpEx fee for a unified comms solution that covers the lot and  seamlessly enables hybrid working?

Provided all of your team members have an internet connection, you don’t need to “rip and replace” anything; Unified comms all take place through the devices your team have access to anyway. There’s barely any capital expenditure involved!

Want to get started with unified comms but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry – just call us for a free telecoms review ! You’re in safe hands with the experts at Just Business Phones. We work with some of the best VoIP and UCaaS providers on the market, including industry leaders like Gamma and 3CX.

So let us pair you with the right unified comms system for you – just call us on 01204 707146  or drop us a line to get started.