The channel is essentially a community of problem solvers but to match capabilities and solutions to evolving market opportunities requires a strategic rethink and sharper focus, according to Comms Vision Platinum sponsor Daryl Pile, Managing Director – Channel, Gamma.
The past 18 months have been characterised by profound change – change in customer and buying behaviours, change in ways of working and change in the way we communicate. But while it's safe to say that all change comes with its challenges, it can also present significant opportunities. For businesses, the shift to remote and hybrid working has intensified the necessity for agile and flexible infrastructure. Because of this, the awareness and adoption of cloud services in the business market has never been greater.
Now more than ever, customers expect more from their providers. When the pandemic hit, businesses adopted whatever solutions would keep the lights on. We are now witnessing a new wave of buying, as the platforms customers chose at the beginning of the lockdown period proved to be unsustainable long-term. After almost two years of crisis, IT managers and business decision makers are re-evaluating their requirements, and their needs are now clearer than ever before. For most customers, secure, reliable and high-speed broadband access is essentially just an enabler to ensure seamless business processes. However, the need to upgrade fixed and wireless broadband access to the latest technology will be a significant driver in the next stage of this journey, with fibre and 5G rollout presenting exciting opportunities for partners.
Ultimately, the way businesses communicate with their customers and within their own organisation will be key to determine what the future looks like – and whether it'll be a profitable one. Especially now, UCaaS and CCaaS mean success. For the channel, this is an opportunity to act as a trusted advisor to meet their customers' communications and IT needs and step out of the sole role of ‘reseller'. Customers will be looking for partners who can provide solutions to help them strengthen their competitiveness and enable them to manage their staff and their customers in a more flexible and agile way.
Delivering solutions, rather than products
If the past year and a half has proven anything, it's that one size most certainly does not fit all. While it's safe to say that most businesses, regardless of size, may have similar objectives – such as higher ROI, lower customer churn, engaged employees – the path to achieve them is distinctly varied. Across the different business segments, there will always be significant differences in financial and human resources, acceptance of new technology and the demands they place around the capabilities of a chosen product. The channel should consider how their proposition meets the specific requirements of each of these segments, considering all the aspects above – and whether they can rely on the support of their chosen partner to reach all possible opportunities.
Moreover, the channel should remember that most businesses don't necessarily want to adopt UCaaS, CCaaS or mobile products, they want to find a solution to their recurring business problems – reliable connectivity, seamless customer interactions, and connected employees, to name a few. Therefore, the delivery and provision of a product goes well beyond the sales process. Its success is determined by the way the ‘solution' meets the specific need of a business. Providing a personalised experience, from marketing to sales and support, will be a big differentiator in an ever-so competitive market.
In this light, the opportunity for the channel to drive real growth and value in their businesses is significant. Unlike digital giants, they have the capability to provide local presence and local service to those businesses that simply can't negate their issues alone. They have the capacity to truly understand their current setup, their problems and their needs, and provide the right solutions on a case-by-case basis.
Earlier this year we also asked our partners what percentage of business sales came from new customers, and while new business is positively growing again, it was clear that a big chunk of business still comes from existing opportunities. With a new wave of buying underway, it's never been more important to reconnect with the existing customer base, cultivate those relationships and understand how to enhance their current tech stack to deliver maximum value. The PSTN switch off is a great example of how supporting an existing customer base can bring real value to the channel. By helping your WLR base navigate this change, you'll automatically have a base to transfer to hosted when the time is right for them.
Adapting to change
It has become abundantly clear that consumer expectations have grown. During the pandemic, we've all turned to digital services to solve our issues and simplify our daily lives, and this trend will stick well beyond this year. Consumers are demanding more and more of brands. While larger enterprises, with more complex needs and existing infrastructure, might struggle to adapt quickly, SMEs have the benefit of being much more agile and flexible in their adoption of cloud technology. These businesses are turning to providers to solve their complex external communications requirements simply and cost-effectively for them. For the channel, this means adapting their approach and portfolio to serving them with products and applications to enable those needs.
Contact centre capabilities within the SME space can prove especially profitable to partners looking to expand their portfolio. Traditionally, contact centres have been the sole domain of large enterprises, often too expensive or complex for smaller businesses to implement. When we launched Horizon Contact at the beginning of the year, we enabled the channel to unlock new opportunities in this market with a cloud-based contact centre solution designed for SMEs, at a price they can afford and that brings value to our partners.
Across all segments, the mobile market is also growing at an unprecedented rate, with data usage increasing by 27 per cent over the pandemic. More and more businesses are adopting a mobile-only strategy for their business communications – with the latest mobile technology often just as fast and efficient as fixed connectivity and traditional phone systems. 5G will become increasingly mission-critical for businesses with greater data requirements and will therefore present the biggest opportunity for partners to deliver truly game-changing technology to their customers. There has never been a more exciting time for partners to add mobile to their portfolio, and with our latest launch of Gamma Mobile they can rely on a product built on the fastest 5G network in the country, with one of the most flexible tariff offerings in the market, Tariff Optimiser – truly delivering value to their business and their customers.
From strength to strength
As the channel continues to navigate through some uncertainty, we are proud to continue to support our partners and to reassure them for the long term. This past year, we have made continuous investments in our portfolio and product strategy – also enabled by the many acquisitions of the past couple of years. Our acquisition of Telsis and its contact centre capability have allowed us to launch Horizon Contact and as mentioned before, further permeate the SME market segment. Similarly, through the investment in Mission Labs and its SmartAgent integration with Amazon, we have been able to meet the more complex requirements of the enterprise market. Finally, we have continued and are continuing to build on our relationship with Microsoft thanks to our acquisition of Exactive in 2020, with our latest accolade becoming part of a selected few providers on the Operator Connect for Microsoft Teams programme. Thanks to these acquisitions and our continuous investments in new solutions, we have increased our understanding of how to help our partners make the most of contact centre and Microsoft opportunities across different channels and market segments.
We continue to believe that the channel is perfectly positioned to truly reap the benefits of the changes in the market. By focusing on delivering a personalised, solution-driven experience through a wider portfolio, they can meet the growing requirements of their customers and differentiate themselves in one of the most competitive moments in the history of our industry.