Voice, Fax, Email and Video from a Single Inbox

Updated: April 30, 2009

A unified communications strategy lets companies manage voice mail, faxes, email and video from a single inbox using a single set of management controls. The perks are plentiful and include increased agent productivity, enhanced customer service and reduced telephony costs. Tossing your old system for a unified messaging solution, however, is no easy feat.

Just ask Kathleen Peterson, founder of PowerHouse Consulting, a call-center and telecommunications consultancy. "Managing a voice mail system is a delayed response," Peterson said. "It's a load that can be pushed off because it's not immediate." Juggling a steady stream of faxes, attachments and emails, on the other hand, creates "an entirely different set of circumstances." It requires companies to re-examine their call-center priorities and expectations.

Smooth Transition

For example, as messages from various communication channels begin to trickle in to a single repository in real time, companies must decide how quickly agents should respond, the skills needed to respond appropriately, what modes of communication warrant immediate attention, and what counts as an acceptable amount of time for fielding each communication.

"You're going to have to make some clear decisions around what kind of response times you're committing to and what kind of resources and skills will be required," warned Peterson.

Assessing Resources

The next step is ensuring that the internal resources are actually available to meet a company's service-level expectations and goals. This calls for some honest appraisal of a company's in-house talent. According to Peterson, the good news is "there really have been some fundamental changes in the call-center work force, because automation has off-loaded so much of the mundane."

But while a call center's collective IQ may be on the rise, there's no guarantee the right skill sets are in place. For example, your call-center agents may be fabulous at fielding customer phone calls, but a unified messaging system's email component calls for strong literacy skills as well. That might mean having to test agents' writing skills and retraining those who fail to pass muster.

Open for Business

One of the greatest risks involved in migrating from a voice-mail-only communications system to a unified messaging solution is the potential impact on business continuity. In fact, according to a Frost & Sullivan survey, business continuity was ranked as one of the top five priorities of enterprise decision makers. For this reason. Peterson recommends that companies test the introduction of a unified messaging system via a pilot project and take the necessary steps to ensure that the system can sufficiently handle the company's telecommunication load.

"The proof of concept and load testing are two key planning tools that, quite honestly, I don't think vendors want to engage in because it takes more time and effort on their part," said Peterson. "But from the client perspective, they're critical success factors in risk avoidance."

Featured Research
  • 8 Ways Business Travelers Can Save with VoIP

    Do you or any part of your workforce travel for work, or even telecommute? If that answer is yes, then you should be utilizing mobile VoIP. With VoIP, businesses have been found to save as much as 40% on local calls and a whopping 90% on international calling expenses. more

  • Phone System Showdown

    When it comes time to select your new phone system, one of the biggest questions that you will face is whether to go with the hot, new VoIP system or the steady and secure PBX network. There are pros and cons to each of these phone systems, and before making any purchase we highly suggest that you take the time to download and read our latest guide: Phone System Showdown: VoIP vs. PBX. more

  • Signals Your Company is Ready For Unified Communications

    Efficient and effective business collaboration is essential to company success and as you grow your business, you'll discover all the different communication methods that you NEED to stay connected with partners and customers. Implementing a Unified Communications (UC) system can save your company upwards of $920,000 a year due to increased efficiency amongst company employees. more

  • Phone System Implementation Expectations

    Providers would have you believe that implementing a new phone system is as easy as counting to three. However, while the process may not be difficult, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure that your new VoIP system is installed and implemented smoothly. Luckily, the challenges associated with upgrading your system tend to be fairly predictable. Most businesses run into the same set of problems that many others have faced before them, meaning avoiding or overcoming them is as easy as preparing ahead of time. more

  • Your Phone System and Your Bottom Line

    Businesses have been using phones to drive increases to their bottom lines for almost a century now. Telephony, much like the rest of the business world, has seen drastic changes with the increase in technological advancement. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), has enabled companies to connect with consumers at levels that have been seen as unheard of before. And trust us when we say this, it is doing wonders for the bottom line. more