New AT&T platform improved voice and video calls for SMBs

AT&T's integrated communication tool, Collaborate, combines voice, instant messenger, video, and conferencing into one.

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AT&T's Collaborate - Enhanced Mobile, a unified voice platform, is now available for businesses, the company announced in a press release Tuesday.

The tool will combine voice, messaging, video, and conferencing into one space, available to employees in the office and on-the-go.

Collaborate uses a "network-based native dialing experience," meaning customers don't need to download an app to speak to someone using the platform, according to the release. The calls use the VoLTE network, giving a higher quality of service without using data.

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By combining these communication tools, companies run into fewer problems such as missing calls, or customers being rerouted or needing to call multiple numbers, leading to better customer service, according to AT&T.

Employees will be able to use their cell phone as their office phone, with a combined voicemail inbox. The integration allows for increased reachability, leading to better customer service and more efficiency. For example, instead of waiting until the next business day to find out you missed an important call, you will know immediately, and will be able to return the call out of the office.

Additional features include a voice responsive system that automatically routes calls, and a caller ID that protects employee information by showing company information--especially helpful for mobile employees using their personal cell phone for work calls.

The new platform is suitable for SMBs and startups because it is cheaper and easier than running separate phone lines and communication systems. It may also be easier than workarounds that utilize free services, like Google Voice. It streamlines nearly every aspect of business communication, freeing up employee time while improving customer service and the business's brand.

"For businesses with a mobile workforce, managing different phone lines, voicemail boxes and simply staying in touch with their customers and each other can be time consuming," Roman Pacewicz, chief product officer for AT&T Business, said in the press release.

AT&T's competitor T-Mobile introduced a similar tool, DIGITS, at the end of May. DIGITS allows one phone number to be used on multiple devices, or for calls for multiple numbers to be routed to the same device. Before big name cell phone providers, free services like Google Voice, startups like Grasshopper, and apps like GoDaddy's SmartLine offered centralized virtual phone systems.

As more providers slowly begin to offer these services, interested businesses will be faced with a choice: Either switch providers and get the service now, or wait until their provider begins offering it, if they haven't already.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. AT&T launched Collaborate - Enhanced Mobile, a unified communication platform that combines voice, video, conferencing, and messaging into one spot for multiple lines.
  2. Employees can use a cell phone as their office phone, with a integrated voicemail inbox and automated call routing.
  3. The tool gives SMBs a cheaper and easier way to manage communications other than using and paying for multiple telephone lines, increasing efficiency while boosting customer service.

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Image: iStockphoto/Jacob Ammentorp Lund