Gavin Macomber is the CEO of Cloudli.
On March 19, 2020, California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home order, triggering the national move to mandated work-from-home that has become our new normal. According to Avant Analytics, customer interest in unified communications spiked 88% during the pandemic, as cloud-based services offer a clear solution to the need for unprecedented flexibility.
It’s easy to see why cloud-based unified communications (called unified communications as a service, or UCaaS) was such a popular research topic: These systems allow users to take their on-site communication tools — business phone lines, messaging and more — home and virtually anywhere in the world. With many of the leading UCaaS tools structured for enterprise-sized businesses, though, SMBs evaluating their options might feel overwhelmed.
Fortunately, there are UCaaS options out there for SMBs. And if your business hasn’t made the move just yet, the time to act is now. Here are five crucial reasons why you can’t delay:
1. Embrace the new normal.
Before the pandemic, only one in five workers said they worked from home all or most of the time, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Today, nearly three-quarters are doing their jobs from home, and 54% say they want to keep working from home even after the pandemic, according to that same survey. In fact, 55% of workers reported to PwC that they would prefer to work remotely at least three days a week after the pandemic.
Andy Jassy, Amazon’s newly minted CEO, is quoted as saying, “You can’t fight gravity.” The reality of work-from-anywhere has set in, and many large companies have embraced this development. Salesforce, Microsoft and Twitter have all adopted permanent flex work policies, effectively enabling worldwide talent acquisition, while simultaneously empowering their staff to work from almost anywhere.
Wherever the balance around work from home lands, what’s clear is that the time spent in-office is decreasing. If your SMB relies on the phones sitting on-site, it’s easy to see the challenge for communication: When workers are moving from home to office to anywhere else, their phones can’t be static.
Early UCaaS solutions replaced traditional desk phones with IP devices. But the real power of UCaaS lies in the apps that extend business communications capabilities to laptops and mobile devices, transforming a user’s smartphone into their primary business line.
These tools put the flex work policies adopted by large enterprises in reach for SMBs, making it easier to attract and retain the talent that makes your business a success. The prevalence of app-based communication tools means your SMB phone lines can be located virtually anywhere across town or even around the world.
2. Support your bottom line.
Back in September, Yelp reported that nearly 100,000 SMBs had permanently closed their doors. The fact is, businesses of all sizes are struggling with the economic impact of the pandemic, but margins are tighter in the SMB environment. And if you’re paying for legacy phone service, you might be spending more on telecommunications than you need to.
SMB-targeted UCaaS solutions offer attractive price points — often far lower than legacy wireline services — that can help you slash your overhead. In fact, Robin Gareiss of Nemertes Research reported that traditional on-premises systems for SMBs end up costing 56% more than cloud-based UC systems.
3. Enhance your communication.
Communication today is so much more than voice connectivity. SMS is now a preferred communication channel for many and is an easy and effective way to communicate. Research shows that 98% of all text messages are opened, and 95% of text messages are opened and responded to within three minutes of being delivered.
Besides allowing SMBs to take their phone lines virtually anywhere in the world, UCaaS also enables businesses to add SMS to their communications arsenal. Many solutions enable on-network instant messaging between colleagues and teams. Some even extend those capabilities off-network, so you can text with associates and clients.
4. Protect company data and control customer communications.
You might be reading this and thinking, “I don’t need to make a switch. We use mobile phones to take calls from anywhere and can send and receive text messages. We’re all set!”
But if business and personal communications intermingle as a matter of course, it can be challenging to keep them separate — and difficult to retain control of customer communications when employees leave. Implementing a UCaaS solution is essential to maintain control of company and customer data. Not to mention, it also makes it easier for your team to maintain work-life balance.
5. Simplify scaling.
As your business grows, your communications solution needs to grow with you. Think back to the last time you needed to add a phone line for your business. It probably took more time than you had and cost more than you wanted to spend.
With UCaaS, adding and removing users is often a self-service operation. You can have new users up and running in a matter of minutes, instead of days or weeks. Just set up the account online, install the apps on your mobile phone, laptop or desktop computer and you’re set.
This isn’t to say that the transition to UCaaS is always smooth sailing. There are literally hundreds of options on the market, and weighing the different feature sets and price points can be an overwhelming endeavor. My best advice? Look for a solution that is tailored to your business — solutions targeted toward enterprises might not be the best fit for SMBs that need specific services and capabilities.
When it comes to business communications, adopting UCaaS is a smart strategy for many SMBs. Not only does it enable your team to embrace the shift to work-from-home and work-from-anywhere, but it can also provide your business with some breathing room on your bottom line and enhance how you communicate with colleagues and customers.
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Gavin Macomber is the CEO of Cloudli. Read Gavin Macomber’s full executive profile here.