Cloud communications and UCaaS for startups can seem daunting at first, but they can also be a real game changer. From supporting growth and team collaboration to helping you access the best talent anywhere in the world, the benefits abound.
But is there an optimal time or company size for scaling up to the cloud for your business communications? Is your startup “too small” to make an investment in UCaaS today? Let’s find out.
Today, we’ll cover:
- What are “cloud communications”?
- What is “UCaaS”?
- Why should startups use cloud communications?
- Is my startup too small for UCaaS?
- How to find the best cloud communications platform for your startup
🚀 There are 4 main keys to startup success. Do you have them all?
Cloud communications are internet-based voice and data communications tools for businesses to manage applications, storage, and switching—all hosted by a third party on the cloud.
Businesses can outsource systems management responsibilities like switching, provisioning, and data storage and security to cloud communications providers.
This does more than simply reduce costs (although this is a huge plus!). It also delivers advanced features and functionality that enable employees to communicate and collaborate in ways—and places—they never thought possible.
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) provides a cloud-based business communications system across multiple channels and devices. UCaaS combines phone service, video conferencing, team messaging, SMS, fax, and other communications tools on a single integrated cloud platform. It’s designed to be accessed from any device—desktop, smartphone, or tablet.
Basically, it puts all your business communication channels in one place, which can reap serious benefits. More on that later.
Streamline processes to save time (and money)
When your team is small, every second counts. TechRepublic reports that, on average, employees switch between different apps over 1,000 times a day. All of this app-switching wastes time, lowers productivity, and slows innovation.
With UCaaS, you put your main functions all in one low-cost cloud service: team messaging, video conferencing, even your business phone. Many of these platforms also allow you to integrate other tools you use regularly like calendars, CRMs, and more. Your team will rarely need to switch gears just to get the job done, and that’s real time and money saved.
Supercharge the customer experience
Cost is no longer the leading driver of customer satisfaction. Today, it’s all about the level of service a company can provide. As a startup, retaining precious customers and creating memorable experiences should be a top priority; you never know where these positive connections could take your business.
The features provided by unified communications platforms will help personalize each customer interaction you have. For example:
- Skills-based call routing connects customers with the right resource for their question, instead of bouncing them from desk to desk.
- Omnichannel communications means you can reach your customers the first time on their channel of choice.
- Call forwarding cuts down on missed calls from important customers, investors, and other important stakeholders.
- Internal messaging allows your team to help customers on the fly without delays.
- CRM integrations mean your customers feel known and cared for by anyone who picks up the phone. For example, RingCentral syncs effortlessly with Salesforce, so you know exactly who’s calling every time:
Strengthen your scale-up infrastructure
Effortless growth is so important to your startup. That’s why you need business communications that grow with you, instead of holding you back.
UCaaS makes it easy to add phone lines and features for new employees and offices anywhere in the world—with admins able to handle configurations on a dashboard. You can even build your own dashboards to track the metrics that matter most to you.
Get the best talent for your startup
With all of your communications in one place, accessible from anywhere, it’s easy to stay in touch with your entire team. You can hop on a call, run an all-hands video meeting, or share files with just a few clicks anywhere in the world.
What this really means: your talent pool isn’t limited to the 20-mile radius around your startup. You can hire the best of the best, and they’ll feel like part of the team, wherever they live.
You might wonder if there’s a level of critical mass that makes investing in unified communications worth your while. But how long will those free versions of two, three, or more different communications apps really be convenient and helpful? If your goal is growth, using a bunch of low-feature apps that don’t work with each other can slow you down.
Getting all of your comms in one place can help even the smallest and scrappiest startup. If you’re sensitive to your budget burn rate, there are a lot of cloud communications platforms out there right now at all different price points.
While even the cheapest of these options can help streamline some of your processes, we recommend finding software that has a little more fire power: something that will be ready to grow when you do. Investing today in a more feature-rich solution means you won’t have to shop and relearn a new platform in a couple years because you’ve outgrown your first pick.
In short, look for a UCaaS solution with legs.
Before you dive into the cloud head-first, take a moment to think about the big picture so you land on the right solution for your company’s goals.
1. Brainstorm your biggest needs (hint: think growth and scale)
Sit with your team and create a UCaaS wish list based on everyone’s daily app usage and tasks.
From there, narrow down the list. It’s helpful if the tools you prioritize align with your business goals for the year; that way, everyone understands the criteria for the new software’s specs. For example, if one goal is to improve internal communication, a powerful messaging feature should be a must-have on your final list. For example, with RingCentral, you can share and annotate files, pin important comments, and even assign tasks:
2. Nail down your budget (hint: value > price)
Take a look at different platforms and decide what you’re willing to spend, and be sure to factor in long-term value.
Long-term value includes features like always-on reliability and scalability——so you don’t outgrow the platform and need to shop again in two years—and an impressive uptime SLA (the monthly number of minutes the phone service is up and running). For example, RingCentral’s uptime is 99.999%, which is hard to beat.
3. Test drive different UCaaS platforms
Just about every platform we’ve included here gives you a way to try before you buy. This could be a demo, a trial period, or even a free tier of their plan.
It’s a good idea to include both tech-happy and tech-averse people on your team in these demos or test runs. That way, you can see which platform is really the easiest to use for folks of all technical comfort levels.
❤️ RingCentral loves startups… and the feeling is mutual. Take us for a test drive!
4. Ask lots of questions
You’re going to use a UCaaS platform all day, every day, so don’t be afraid to ask for the features you need.
Make sure the software provider can meet as many of your must-haves as possible so you don’t have to start the whole process over in a year or two.
5. Choose your favorite platform and implement
Once you’ve settled on the right unified communications platform, it’s time to roll it out to your team. Take advantage of the tool’s online knowledge base to train everyone on the new software.
For example, RingCentral has an entire onboarding experience especially for getting small businesses up to speed. Check it out here.
6. Evaluate the tool regularly
As you’re planning the implementation of your new UCaaS platform, make sure to schedule check-ins throughout the year. It’s important to take the temperature of new users to see what’s going well and where there are snags, if any.
It’s always a good idea to make the UCaaS provider aware of any serious issues you encounter along the way. And if you think of a feature that would really help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Platforms like RingCentral often create updates based on customer suggestions.
UCaaS for startups: It’s never too early
Whatever stage your startup is in, unified communications can help you grow, stay connected, and deepen relationships with your stakeholders and customers. Be sure to take time upfront to evaluate your needs and desired growth as you choose the right solution for your company, and you’re sure to find a UCaaS platform that can take your business communications to the next level.
Originally published May 10, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022