UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS AS A SERVICE (UCaaS) and VoIP often get lumped together because they're both digital replacements of older PBX and key systems based on analog telephone lines. While they are related, UCaaS offers more functionality and greater revenue opportunity for channel pros.
"VoIP replaces analog phone lines with the internet, and is sold as less expensive phone service," says Jon Arnold, principal at J Arnold & Associates in Toronto. "It's not new or disruptive anymore. People who buy [it] just want a phone on a desk."
UCaaS, in contrast, includes the voice component of VoIP along with collaboration tools such as messaging across multiple teams, video calls, and more. A key advantage, particularly now, is that UCaaS makes it easier to manage a remote workforce, says Paco Lebron, founder of ProdigyTeks, a small integrator and support company in Chicago.
For instance, Lebron explains, co-workers using a UCaaS system can integrate phone calls, instant messaging, and collaboration with Microsoft 365. Often, UCaaS includes video services for group meetings, or lets you add them.
Companies with distributed workforces and more than one office benefit the most from UCaaS, according to Arnold. "The more distributed, the more useful UCaaS is,” he says. “Field workforces, like sales or techs, can use phones, tablets, and laptops from the field."
Particularly now, with so much of the workforce remote due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lebron believes "UCaaS will be the future of communications in the near term ... It also helps that many current subscriptions include some of these solutions such as Microsoft Teams and G Suite [now named Google Workspace]."
For channel pros, the pandemic has created an opportunity “to speak with clients who have yet to leave their traditional phone services," Lebron adds.
To get started offering UCaaS, Arnold suggests, figure out a client’s pain point. Savings is not the best reason to move to UCaaS, he notes. “The payoff is a much richer capability set and it's difficult to put a value to that. How do employees really work today? Handle missed calls and voicemail?" Automatic call forwarding from the office number to a mobile phone, or dual-ring, means callers reach a person more often. Voicemails automatically sent to email or even a text deliver messages faster.
Arnold suggests bringing up VoIP only as an entry point to UC. "You can't make money on VoIP when people will switch providers for 50 cents per line. Do the education to explain the value of UC with video messaging, transcription services, and mobile integration. Voice is certainly a big part of it, maybe even softphones. There are many ways to do telephony today. But VoIP numbers are trending down while UC numbers are trending up."