There is no more sensible way to provide customers with the communications power and flexibility they need other than through a high calibre cloud-based UC&C solution, argue leading proponents of the technology.
That the cloud, impeccable customer service and a single communications platform are inseparable priorities for today's business leaders is an undisputed fact and top of the IT chief's customer engagement agenda. With a wide choice of communications channels now available, such as social media, phone or email, customers expect to contact a business at any time through any platform, creating a flood of inbound queries which often arrive via disjointed systems that are difficult for staff to use. The inevitable outcome? Poor service. "The key priority for CIOs in 2018 is customer service, and cloud communications is helping them to meet this challenge," stated Sharon Maslyn (pictured), VP of EMEA Sales, 8x8.
"More companies are adopting a single cloud communications, collaboration and customer engagement platform that unites all parts of the business that were previously siloed, creating a steady flow of information between departments, while improving cross-collaboration and uniting an enterprise's workforce, ensuring first time call resolution every time. This means staff are efficient, happy and fully collaborative, and that the enterprise is a customer-engagement driven organisation."
According to Maslyn this third wave of enterprise communications will be led by the CIO, seamlessly weaving voice, video, messaging, meetings and contact centre solutions for enhanced employee and customer engagement. "Resellers must recognise their strengths and frame the benefits of a cloud communications, collaboration and contact centre system in relation to helping companies deliver the best possible customer experiences," added Maslyn.
"However, transitioning to new technology can be intimidating. Successful resellers will clearly identify the reasons why companies should adopt new systems and make the move to digital not only understandable, but simple. It's not just about resellers simplifying the processes, it's also about talking the customer's language and making the benefits crystal clear."
Any adoption barriers that exist are not related to technology but linked to a mindset that's wedded to legacy equipment, according to Luke Coleman, UC Propositions Lead at KCOM. "Selling UCaaS demands a new conversation with customers above and beyond what we've been used to," he stated.
"Our conversations aren't just focused on demonstrating the business benefits of embracing UCaaS, we also need to overcome the inertia associated with 'BAU' communications and address anxieties about moving to a new solution. As with any effective UCaaS deployment the whole organisational structure must work in a way that these tools are designed to support. Simply having a team collaboration tool does not mean that team collaboration will happen automatically."
As enterprises evolve their workforces and old hierarchies flatten out the inevitable outcome is a higher dependency on virtual teams. "UCaaS enables and supports this transition by allowing employees to interact and collaborate wherever their location," added Coleman. "Enterprises can also gain access to the best talent on a project by project basis."
The impact of UCaaS adoption as the discontinuation of ISDN services looms is already being keenly felt, noted Coleman. "The shift in conversations to UCaaS is having a direct impact on the volume of ISDN services that we're seeing," he said. "The short-term challenge for telco operators is the reduction in like-for-like revenue and margins. But selling the full value proposition of UCaaS more than compensates for this."
A key barrier to adoption lies in the number of resellers yet to embrace the new 'as-a-service' economic model, observed Steve Harris, EVP of Nuvias UC. He also identified the blurring of lines between voice, video and IT as the most significant force shaping the UCaaS landscape. "This is accelerating and companies are now demanding a seamless and unified user experience across all devices whether at a desk, in a meeting or mobile," he stated.
The extent of UCaaS adoption varies across Europe and depends on the activity and behaviour of the incumbents and larger companies, and how they react to new more disruptive players in the market, noted Harris. He also pointed to a move away from ISDN in the UK, not based on cost savings but more aligned to the delivery of UC features. "The most interesting growth area here is video," he added. "Users have experienced video in their personal lives and want access to this technology at work. Furthermore, the cost and complexity of delivering video solutions has reduced considerably which means it is now becoming a mainstream application that sits alongside voice for all users."
The success of UCaaS hinges on the user receiving genuine value from the service, and resellers who invest in end user adoption initiatives will enjoy the greatest success. "This involves a new relationship with the customer based more on business benefits and RoI than the delivery of a product or technology," explained Harris. "Because UCaaS services drive the behaviour of end users and can genuinely impact the quality of their interaction and productivity, it does mean that the relationship with the customer can become much closer."
End users are now primed for full UCaaS and demanding it over and above simple voice services. The preferred method for consumption for all technology is moving to as-a-service, therefore it's clear that UCaaS will dominate in the near future, believes Harris. "VARs and SIs should look at UCaaS providers that reflect their market positioning and are culturally aligned, meaning that success is always mutual," he added. "Some UCaaS providers are highly driven by subscriber volumes and others will sign end customers direct or via a sales agent model. The relationship needs to be clearly outlined and agreed upfront."
According to analysts the high growth UCaaS market remains relatively untapped but RingCentral has seen little sign of adoption barriers having closed 15 deals worth over $1 million during the past quarter with channel partners accounting for many of these wins. "Our channel business has grown during the last seven quarters generating over 100 per cent growth year-over-year," stated Sahil Rehki, Managing Director UK for RingCentral.
Rehki noted that RingCentral's most significant growth over the last 12 months has come from the mid-market and enterprise segments. "The channel has helped to drive this growth," he added. "We fully expect these markets to continue to be our biggest opportunities and are working with our channel partners to keep this momentum going."
True alignment with the UCaaS vendor is critical to the success of a UCaaS solution, believes Rehki. He also urges resellers to take a holistic approach. "To capitalise on the multi-billion pound opportunity within UCaaS VARs and SIs should build a wide and strong portfolio of all IT services beyond communications," he added. "SIs need to transform their organisations from sales led individuals to consultants who help build digital transformation journeys for their customers and recommend best of breed digital partners."
This is a critical development phase in the market as a growing number of organisations continue to migrate their systems to the cloud, seeking scalability and mobility, and then new solutions that can be integrated into their cloud environment to bring more benefits and efficiencies. "UCaaS allows enterprises to be agile," said Rehki. "It also enables them to take advantage of feature sets that are instantly available and augmented by updates and major releases that add new features.
"There are of course many more challenges that UCaaS solves including cost reduction, consolidation of vendors, increasing efficiency and an all-round better experience. Channel partners have the skills, experience and relationships to play a key role in the transition to a UCaaS model in partnership with their UCaaS provider."