There is no doubt that the demand for Unified Communications from small business customers is growing. Whilst looking at Unified Communications, it is important for the customer to look at the efficiency and productivity benefits of the UC solution rather than the technology. Unified Communications should be considered as a way of improving working practices, for example remote working and hot-desking and customer service e.g. Contact Centres
Some small business customers still ask why they should pay for features such as instant messaging (IM) or shared workspace when services such as Skype and Dropbox provide part of the functionality for free. This is an acceptable question to ask, most SMB customer's do not see the security and reliability implications of applications such as Skype or the fact that they are not stable enough for business use. If working practices are not changed to best utilise the benefits of Unified Communications to increase efficiency then paying for a suite of UC services could be seen as an unnecessary investment.
When implementing unified communications, the first step should be to look at how the customer conduct their business, how many employees are involved in different roles and if they are mobile or deskbound. What are the customer's future plans e.g. are they looking to expand or minimise office space requirements. Most importantly, the analysis should look at how the customer communicates with customers, how easy is it for end-cutomers to contact the company, looking at efficiency and response times to phone calls and e-mails.
The result of this assessment is to see how unified communications features e.g. unified voicemail, presence, smartphone integration can be applied to the company's objectives and requirements. This approach is different to some resellers who try to "shoe horn" in their solution to the business without considering how or if it will benefit the customer's working practices. It should also include much broader capabilities such as hosted desktop to allow hot-desking and remote working solutions for home and mobile workers, as well as contact centre services. In today's very competitive marketplace, customer service is a vital differentiator so no unified communications implementation should be considered without a contact centre set-up, even if it involved only a handful of agents.
An unified communications implementation approach that looks at the productivity and efficiency benefits can be invaluable. Therefore, engaging with resellers who have the experience and expertise to best identify these features is essential.