is uc a wise investment in a tough economy?

Budgets are getting stretched thinner as the economy continues to struggle and unemployment remains high. With IT resources constrained, is unified communications a wise investment? The signs, from rising IP PBX sales to total cost of ownership, point decisively to “yes.” The ability to collaborate is more important than ever. Companies need to hone customer service as they face increased competition for fewer customers. And they need their employees to be able to do even more with less.

The twin objectives of driving customer service and productivity have propelled sales of IP PBXs to a bright spot in IT spending. In fact, PBX sales were up 16 percent in 2010, according to Eastern Management Group, a market research firm. Much of the growth came from customers that replaced aging PBXs as a way to improve employee productivity and reduce business operating expenses, rather than from companies that were relocating or opening offices, according to the research firm.

Investing to Maximize Business Value

You should look for a system that delivers measurable savings and drives business value by allowing groups of people to produce new ideas or products faster than ever before. Workers can avoid wasting time on phone calls or landing in voicemail. They can use a feature that shows a presence status to see which coworkers are logged into the network and if they’re available for questions, assignments or collaboration. Instant messaging, too, allows people to communicate quickly—and multitask. In fact, many customers have been able to eliminate a third of internal calls with IM conversations.

Virtual meetings are another source of productivity and investment payback, as companies can eliminate the high costs and wasted time associated with business travel. Virtual meetings can boost efficiency, whether the meeting is one-on-one or a virtual room full of people following a presentation or hashing out the details of an innovative new product.

Integrated communications delivers bottom-line savings, according to industry analytics. Research from UniComm Consulting shows that UC can deliver annual travel savings of over $4,000 for traveling team members, annual facilities savings averaging $2,500 per office employee, overtime reductions of $1,500 per nonexempt position, and major savings in project time and expenses.

Customers can count up the savings by eliminating the use of outside audio and Web conferencing services. Typical audio conferencing services can cost $10 per user per month. Typical Web conferencing and document sharing services can cost from $5 to $20 per user per month. Conducting these meetings on an inhouse system could save as much as $20,000 per year for a company with 100 active audio conferencing and 50 active Web conferencing users.

Bring Your Own Mobile Device

Employees want to bring their own mobile devices, like Apple iPads and iPhones, to work. Employees like the convenience, and companies can gain significant cost efficiencies because they don’t need to buy their workers mobile devices. With a Mobility solution, workers gain the full power of UC and a desk phone from their mobile device, so they can work effectively from the office, at home, or Wi-Fi hotspots. In addition, Mobility can help organizations get control over soaring international roaming costs and poor in-building cellular coverage.

Improve Customer Service

Customers expect higher levels of service than ever, especially as more of your competitors are vying for their business. Using a robust Contact Center makes it easy to simplify your customer communications while taking advantage of the efficiencies of multisite contact centers. You can easily connect the right customer to the right agent at the right time, which results in lowered costs and an improved customer experience. Look for flexible solutions for businesses of all sizes, from smaller, less formal environments to large organizations that require call centers and sophisticated call routing and reporting, multimedia, self-service and outbound campaign capabilities.

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