RingCentral: No. 1 In Communications Software
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What is communications software?
Communications software is the loose category of systems and apps that allows users to exchange files and text, audio, and video messages via the cloud or local network from various devices. The most common tools are email, chat, and messaging apps.
Aside from handling day-to-day message exchanges, communications software are used to conduct remote meetings and discussions in real-time. They often feature enterprise-grade security over the infrastructure to protect sensitive data. They may also include advanced features, such as file transfer protocol, an intranet platform, and VoIP.
In this guide, we’ll discuss in-depth the question: what is communications software? Beyond the definition of communications software, we’ll also explain its key features, benefits, and pricing.
If you don’t use communication software, you run the risk of miscommunication, which leads to costly mistakes. One of the common reasons for poor communication in the office is limited feedback. Feedback is even harder to come by for remote teams. A good communication solution can easily address this problem by ensuring everyone is connected and in real-time.
Likewise, relying solely on email won’t cut it if you have a growing company. Did you know that, on average, a corporate user sends and receives about 110 emails every day? Having a chat or voice channel can quickly cut to the confusion if you want to clearly get your message across.
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What are the Types of Communications Software?
What does communications software do? That depends on the type of software. As this category loosely lumps together different apps, we can categorize them based on how they are usually packaged. Take note that the features of communications software vary by a mile because some apps are standalone. In contrast, others are integrated with a bigger system like CRM software platforms or project management tools.
- Unified communications system. This features the works–phone support, ticketing, intranet, VoIP, and other enterprise tools like reporting and analytics. It may be categorized, too, as a help desk or contact center solution, as it is usually used for customer support or outbound sales.
- Web conferencing. This type features text and audio and video exchange capabilities and is used for various purposes such as conference calls, video presentations, employee training, customer onboarding, tutorials, and webinars. It is ideal for organizations with remote teams, global clients, or a long web mailing list.
- Live chat. Many vendors offer live chat as a standalone app that you can embed in your digital channels like website, social media page, newsletter, and custom app. Live chat apps today are sophisticated, able to offer marketing software features like lead qualification and nurturing, provide analytics on web visits and FAQs, or integrate with your CRM or other key business systems for shared data.
What are the Examples of Communications Software?
To give you a better idea of this software category, here are a few examples of communications software. These apps encompass the range of services that are being offered by vendors in this niche.
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RingCentral is a good definition of a robust cloud phone system. It features an advanced PBX that bypasses the need for costly hardware, software license, maintenance, workstation phones, and operators. It allows for voice communications, online meetings, and business conferences. A suite of communication tools, RingCentral is scalable to meet your growing needs, such as call management, HD voice calls, and multilevel attendant.
Should you want to investigate the platform firsthand, you can easily do so when you sign up for a RingCentral free trial.
monday.com is one of the most popular apps for communication and collaboration, and for a good reason. The software uses a Board concept to list all projects and tasks, making it easier for team members to keep each other updated. Users can quickly communicate through comments or calls, eliminating the need for time-consuming meetings.
The vendor offers a comprehensive free trial to get you up to speed with the features.
Designed as a cloud-based project management system, ProjectManager combines features for scheduling, collaboration, and project planning. The software helps managers plan out projects and tasks and ensure proper allocation of resources and assets. The system also lets you compare a project’s planned and actual progress so you can always keep your team on track.
You can easily sign up for ProjectManager free trial and get to know the features firsthand at no cost and without commitment.
Lifesize offers a robust suite of tools for video conferencing and setting up meeting rooms. The software offers the world’s first 4K video conferencing solution, allowing seamless communication and easier collaboration within teams. Lifesize is scalable, too, so you can use the system for one-on-one meetings, team huddles, and even forums and seminars.
The vendor has an appealing free trial where you can tinker with the features at no cost.
A cloud-based power dialer, PhoneBurner is designed to speed up the calling process. Through the software, sales agents can contact up to 80 leads per hour and maintain control of each call. PhoneBurner also comes with a built-in lead distribution platform that helps boost conversion rates. Moreover, CRM features make it easier for agents to nurture leads into opportunities.
You can use all the features for free for a period of time to see if the software matches your needs. Simply sign up for PhoneBurner free trial and try it for yourself.
Developed by experts in the telecommunications industry, Ytel serves as an end-to-end solution for organizations’ business communication needs. The system lets you centralize communication methods-voice calls, private messaging, and email into one platform. Plus, the software uses a carrier-grade network to deliver stable uptimes and ensure reliability.
Xoxoday Empuls is a communications platform for teams. At its core, it provides a messaging application for one-on-one or group chats. It doesn’t stop there, however, as it also features task management and rewards system where managers can create surveys and polls to measure employee engagement and retention rates. It offers scalable security and developer APIs that can let you integrate with a variety of third-party B2B tools.
Xoxoday Empuls can be accessed from the web using a modern web browser. It also comes in a mobile app for iOS and Android, can be tried free for 3 weeks after which you can subscribe for $3 monthly per user.
If you want to investigate the features closely, you can easily do so when you sign up for Ytel free trial.
What are the Benefits of Communications Software?
Why use communication software when you already have email? Well, email is just one tool in a suite of communication apps. There is more to this software that will allow you to do or achieve the following.
- Work remotely. Teams are increasingly distributed not just within the country but globally. Businesses today need communication tools to keep everyone on the same page in real-time to conduct daily operations, work collaboratively, or address urgent situations. With a suite of communication software tools leveraging cloud and mobile, teams today can delegate tasks, coordinate activities, and communicate instructions wherever and whenever they have an internet connection.
- Boost productivity. Communicate with clarity with teams and avoid costly errors like missed deadlines, wrong outputs, and mismatched expectations. You have plenty of tools to ensure you get the message across. Likewise, the best communications apps-including live chat, email, and top VoIP tools-have a recording feature that keeps employees accountable for their tasks. Remote teams are also always connected through mobile devices, so the office and field can quickly coordinate daily on urgent tasks. Overall, the company boosts productivity when everyone is on the same page.
- Easy to integrate. Most live chat, email and other messaging apps are so ubiquitous that they work smoothly with bigger systems like CRM software, project management systems, help desk software tools, ecommerce platforms, and other SaaS solutions. That means you can share data seamlessly, for instance: funnel live chat messages into CRM for leads, convert emails into tasks or tickets, or upload recorded webinars or training in your knowledge base.
- Capture important information. One of the major advantages of communications software is it acts as a repository of data. Many apps can record or archive message exchanges and audio and video calls, meaning you can capture important details such as customer queries, discussion points, and meeting minutes. The benefits from this are plenty, including sorting promising customer inquiries for leads, referencing discussion points as proof of agreement, and preparing minutes.
- Minimize costs. Many of the best communications software solutions can be accessed using your employees’ smartphone or tablet. This significantly lowers hardware costs. Similarly, many free communication tools are good enough to exchange messages, audio/video calls, and files. You can also replace expensive PBX and landline licenses and hardware with cloud-based communications software at affordable monthly fees.
Skype is one of the most popular free IM chat apps that can replace traditional PBX.
What are the Features of Communications Software?
How does communications software work? These are the common features of a communications system, a suite of built-in or standalone tools that you can mix and match.
- Cloud PBX. The feature bypasses the hardware components of traditional PBX, such as a hub and workstation phones. More so, cloud PBX extends the reach of traditional PBX by connecting your employees’ smartphones to the central system via the internet.
- Call recording. Text, audio, and video are captured by this feature for future reference or use. This tool is handy for a variety of uses, from backing up agreements to creating minutes. Call recording can also be used by sales and marketing to discover promising leads or market insights.
- Auto receptionist. Automatically receives calls, sorts and forwards them to the right person or department. This feature frees up your receptionist to handle other important things.
- Voicemail. Records phone calls in your absence.
- Internet facsimile. Uses internet protocol to send faxes from your computer. It also saves paper. This feature, though, is giving way to the more advanced capabilities of document sharing tools, which can be built-in or integrated with the communications software.
- Web conferencing. A communications software may have a built-in audio and video conferencing feature, which allows for virtual meetings and webinars. A chat tool is usually included in case of poor internet connectivity.
- Integrated collaboration tools. These systems may include live chat, email, other messaging apps, and file sharing. Some applications have these as built-in features, while others integrate with third-party apps for extended capabilities.
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What are the Buying Factors to Consider with Communication Software?
What is communications software, but tools that provide the means to exchange messages? Actually, it’s more complex than that. Before you subscribe to a plan or install an app, consider these factors that will impact user experience and the long-term viability of the solution.
- Fully featured or individual apps. Communications software can be a comprehensive PBX system with an integrated document management and collaboration platform, or just a live chat or a web conferencing app. That’s an ocean of difference when considering this loose category. The purpose of communications software depends on your need, so think first how you want this process to be implemented. If you have a recurring need for employee training, consider a web conferencing feature. If you have simple message exchanges, a live chat will do. Likewise, prefer a vendor that can scale the features and pricing, so the solution grows with your business.
- Free or paid. This software category is replete with robust freemiums, the most plentiful maybe in all SaaS, so consider trying the free apps first. There are plenty of free IM chat apps, live chat software, VoIPs, and web conferencing tools out there that deliver the job for small businesses. That said, make sure the free app has paid plans that let you scale to more advanced features like reporting and analytics, social media integration, and more users in case they become necessary.
- Third-party integration. Communication is central to any business system, so make sure the communication tools you’re using now will integrate with your other business systems like CRM, project management, and help desk. While you can always get a system with built-in communication features, migrating contacts and messages is a nightmare. You’d want to stick to your current apps and integrate them with third-party systems.
- Security. This is always a bone of contention when considering cloud solutions, and many communication tools work in the cloud. Security protocols vary by vendor, but generally, consider the following security features especially for enterprise systems: user permissions, backup plan, and managed encryption.
- Cost efficiency. This pertains to the predictability of monthly fees (no hidden charges or padded fees) and total cost of ownership (TCO). Make sure you know how you are charged (by user, calls, feature set, etc.) and that the charges are clearly stated in the invoice. Likewise, calculate TCO, including the time spent to get employees on board, installation, and other technical requirements.
- Service quality. Most vendors are eagerly receptive during your purchase process; that’s because you’re dealing with sales, not support. Find out through user reviews or from current customers how the vendor fares when it comes to addressing customer concerns. You’ll need support for technical issues, bill disputes, and upgrade inquiries, among others.
What is the Pricing of Communications Software?
What is the cost of communications software? The answer to this varies based on the type of app. Here are a few examples.
- RingCentral. Provides a basic feature set that can be scaled to three price plans with fixed fees: Standard, Premium, and Enterprise. Subscriptions start at $24.99 per user/month. All plans include intercom, paging, shared lines, and advanced call forwarding, among others.
- 8×8 VoIP Phone Service. Many vendors require a quote request to provide a customized plan. 8×8 VoIP is an example. You need to contact the vendor and submit details.
- Slack. It is an example of a robust free app. The freemium comes with searchable message archives, up to 10 third-party apps integration, and up to 5 GB storage limit. Slack also scales to three paid plans starting at $6.67 per user/month.
- Join.me. Like Slack, this app comes with a robust free version, but it only scales to two paid subscriptions starting at $18 per month.
- Skype. It also comes for free with paid plans, starting at $5.50 per user/month. The paid plans let you integrate the app with Office 365 for extended functionalities.
What are the Potential Issues with Communications Software?
Communication software does not lack for issues. Here are the common problems you may encounter.
- Security. Putting up sensitive information in the cloud always has its risks. It’s not to say though that leaving it on your local computer is safer. Assess the vendor’s security protocols and terms. Security also means the vendor has a backup plan in case its servers act up or are hacked, so your business is not disrupted or put into peril. On another note, if you’re discussing confidential details, never connect to the cloud communication system via public wifi or outside of your verified networks. Hackers may be eavesdropping or tracking your digital footprint. A good measure is to use a VPN to hide your online exchanges.
- Disparate tools. With plenty of free apps at your company’s disposal, your teams may end up using different apps, or they may shuffle between apps. What happens is you lose the advantage of capturing messages, discussions, and files in one location. Instead, it would be difficult to trace conversations or look for a shared file across a slew of free apps.
- Unified isn’t always the best. Having a unified system, on the other hand, may limit accessibility or jack up costs. For example, the system only supports iOS, leaving out Android users in your organization.
- Lack of mobile app. Native mobile apps for Android or iOS make it faster and smoother to connect to the cloud from a smartphone or tablet. If the solution lacks this feature, you’ll need to connect via a mobile browser, which is slower and more cumbersome.
What are the Latest Communication Software Trends?
Finally, after answering our questions–What is communications software? And all other relative queries–we look into the future of this software category. These are the possible trends to expect in the communications software space.
- Social intranet. Intranets are incorporating social media elements to drive engagement and simplify communication. You will find Facebook- and Twitter-like activity feeds, notifications, hashtags, and @mentions in advanced communications solutions.
- Robust chat tools. IM messaging apps are old products being given a rebooted feature set. Today’s live chat apps, for example, can now easily handle media formats from video to web conferencing. We expect to see more functions embedded in a chat, including shopping, social media, product reviews, and integrated third-party apps.
- Bots. AI chatbots have already taken a foothold in the market, addressing FAQs. We expect these bots to further advance, able to handle more complex conversations and fully free up humans from managing customer service.
- VR. Virtual reality, as applied to communications, has a long way to go but is feasible more than ever. We already have VR-enriched online shopping, where customers can “enter” an online shop and pick the items. The same technology can easily be adapted to sales presentations or group meetings using communications software.
Communications Software: Going Beyond Email
Business communications today should move beyond emails and towards software that allows for faster, smoother communication within teams. The best communications software can boost productivity and keep records of important information. Like many types of collaboration software, these systems make it easier for teams to work together and deliver projects on time.
You can check out RingCentral, our top pick for communications software, if you want to find out how it can fit into your team’s workflow. You can try all its premium features at no cost when you sign up for RingCentral free trial here.