If you’re a business owner, you know that business communication is important to the continued success of your company. Efficient collaboration is critical because if you can't get anything done, your business won't thrive.

Unified messaging services (UMS) can help your company improve productivity and efficiency by giving your teams the tools they need to collaborate and communicate more effectively.

Here’s everything you need to know about UMS and how they can benefit your company.

What Is Unified Messaging?

Unified messaging refers to the integration and management of email, video, voice, instant messaging and SMS communication channels on a single communications suite. Unified messaging software directs incoming social media, email and chat engagements to one place, generally your email account.

Different teams may be assigned to different communication channels, but everyone uses the same messaging software. UMS tools allow you to take better control of your business communications, gain insights into customer behavior and keep track of all business interactions.

Features of Unified Messaging

Unified messaging sends voicemails to a single, remotely accessible mailbox, typically email. Other UMS features include:

  • Contact center analytics: Some UMS providers offer contact center features that give you insights into how well you're doing
  • Virtual meetings: A cloud-based provider lets you host virtual meetings or conferences from anywhere, on any device
  • Mobile apps: Remote employees can use smartphone apps to access mobile versions of UMS software programs
  • Visual voicemail: Visual voicemail provides a text-based transcript of saved voicemails, which helps you organize customer and employee interactions
  • CRM integration: Integrate your CRM with your UMS software to access all your favorite CMS features right from your browser

Benefits of a Unified Messaging Service

A unified messaging service helps you streamline your team’s collaboration and communication efforts. It also lets you select the channels your customers prefer, rather than wasting time on channels that don't support your communication goals.

Other benefits include:

  • One mailbox for all messages: Unified messaging sends all your messages to one mailbox and organizes them for easy access
  • Tailored mailboxes: UMS platforms can be tailored to each user, ensuring they see only the communication data relevant to their role. This promotes effective and productive lead management
  • Remote availability: If you have UMS software on your laptop or mobile device, you can access the mailbox remotely. This means employees can listen and respond to voicemail messages even if they’re away from the office
  • Multichannel support: Unified messaging is compatible with both modern and legacy messaging channels, letting you manage web messages, fax messages and SMS through the same window. It saves you lots of time in the process
  • Team messaging: Unified messaging can be used to create groups in which participants can communicate with each other effortlessly. The software keeps team members on the same page
  • Multi-software support: Unified messaging services provide a unified experience for communication and instant messaging software, including Skype, Hangouts and Slack. A single mailbox saves you the time of checking your apps one by one
  • Multi-device support: UMS software is compatible with smartphones, tablets and computers, which means you can access your messaging platform anywhere, on any device.

Benefits of Unified Messaging for Your Business

Unified messaging is beneficial for small and growing companies because it allows employees to communicate with coworkers and customers through a desktop, laptop or mobile device from anywhere in the world.

With just your identity and an authentic management tool, you can easily set your employees up with a team messaging application and their own messaging rooms. No further steps are involved, making this a straightforward, all-in-one business communication solution.

Unified messaging can also lower your overall phone costs by 50% or more. It eliminates the high operating and capital expenses of old telephone technology.

VoIP and Unified Messaging

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services allow you to make phone calls over the internet to phone numbers anywhere in the world. This can help your organization save on the cost of phone service. Compared with legacy service costs, VoIP is often much lower per minute.

Furthermore, VoIP is one type of phone service you can use with unified messaging. A UMS brings all your VoIP voicemail messages and any other messages you have into a single mailbox for you to check at your convenience.

How to Enable Unified Messaging for Users

When unified messaging is connected with Exchange 2007, the recipient administrators can enable it for users in the Active Directory. You can easily enable unified messaging users from the command prompt using the following cmdlets:

  • Enable-UMMailbox
  • Disable-UMMailbox
  • Set-UMMailbox
  • Get-UMMailbox

You can start by learning how to set up unified messaging-enabled users in the Exchange Console. This will help you become more accustomed to the rest of the system.

Unified Messaging Using a UCaaS Platform

Unified messaging works a lot better using unified communications as a service (UCaaS). UCaaS is essentially a cloud delivery model that provides a suite of communication tools that allow you to better manage the customer and user experience.

A UCaaS platform can provide services, benefits and features such as:

  • Scalability: Scale effortlessly depending on your needs, whether you require software for 10 or 10,000 employees
  • Online meetings: Unified messaging allows for online meetings with employees or external partners via private or public chat rooms
  • B2B collaboration: With a team messaging solution, you can share and collaborate with external partners, suppliers and customers across messaging platforms
  • APIs: With some providers, you get APIs to support bot development

Unified Messaging vs. Unified Communication

Unified messaging pertains to voicemail, while a unified communications platform is much broader and encompasses other communication channels such as email and text messaging.

Unified communications systems can bring in messages from many different types of communications that include:

  • Email: Brings your email messages from different accounts to a single mailbox
  • Chat: Your instant messages and chat communications can also come to your mailbox
  • Phone: Phone calls are enabled by the VoIP phone service within the unified communications solution
  • File sharing: Share files quickly and easily so you can use them as resources or as part of your projects
  • Video conferencing: There's no need for third-party software for your video calls

Types of Unified Messaging Providers

Here are some of the UMS providers you can choose from. Each offers a unique feature set, and we’ve outlined the pros and cons.

  • Disa: This is a messaging hub application for iOS and Android. It’s easy to use and has an open-source API that permits the addition of new services. The app supports many languages and allows you to answer from your PC. However, Disa does not support Google SMS or allow you to customize notifications per conversation or contact. Disa is also closed-source, so the development speed is capped. No external developer can help or add features as these must be directly managed by the software's small team
  • IM+: This application supports all key IM services such as iChat, Google Talk, Yahoo! and Yandex IM. It performs the core IM experience and its layout is intuitive. It can also send encrypted, off-the-record and secure messages. This software doesn't support popular and newer messengers, rendering it impractical in many settings
  • OneApp: This is a free application that integrates all the instant messaging applications available: Facebook Messenger, Gmail, Hangouts, BBM, Kik, Hike, KakaoTalk and LINE. The downside of this app is that it fails to load previous messages, making it a poor choice for businesses that place a premium on corporate memory. Additionally, it's dependent on the installation and management of a suite of supporting messaging applications
  • Snowball: Snowball supports Hangout, BBM, Facebook Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, Snapchat, SMS, Skype, Hangouts, Twitter, LINE, WeChat, Kik, Hike, Telegram, Slack, GroupMe and Kakao. However, it also requires many original apps to be installed, which wastes resources

Unified Messaging Success Story: The Artco Group

When heavy plate manufacturer The Artco Group acquired a number of smaller companies, increasing their workforce from five employees to more than 250, they realized they needed a new unified communications system. Poor voice quality and dropped calls plagued users, and the complexity and interplay of the Artco Group’s VPN, broadband connectivity, NEC hardware and IP phone service made troubleshooting and resolving problems difficult.

After shifting to a new cloud-based solution, the company's internal communications problems faded away. UMS solutions also improved their client interactions. For example, the quality of calls increased, reducing the chances of mistakes due to miscommunication.

The Artco Group also began using auto attendants so they could tailor its messaging and greetings for each office location. The company was also able to implement ring groups, so there is always a backup for incoming calls.

As Artco Group CIO Damian Brennan explains, "Before, if someone was out, we had no way of accessing their messages and responding to callers. By aligning our ring groups with functions, we can see when there’s a message and take the necessary action. It’s made us much more responsive to callers.”

Why 8x8?

The 8x8 Team Messaging app is recognized as the top unified messaging app. It enables business collaboration by offering real-time team communication. It delivers excellent end-user experience and helps support the efficiency and productivity you require to deliver results. It allows internal and external collaborators, business units and project teams to share content and communicate as a team. Finally, it keeps disruptions to a minimum with simple following and tagging features.

It's a comprehensive solution, meeting all the above performance criteria for effective unified communications.

Your business needs every cog in your machine to be as productive as possible. With 8x8's Unified Communications platform, your business gets the unified messaging it needs without the need for multiple disparate systems. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out an online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 product specialist.

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