Are you in the UCaaS frame?

Taking a big-picture view of the UCaaS space and gauging the role of partners in meeting the demands of this fast evolving market is critical to success, says Iain Sinnott, Head of International Carrier Sales, Enreach for Service Providers.

Establishing the best route to growth requires a clear view of all markets within the business communications and IT sphere, and among the most pressing challenges is getting to grips with the full potential of UCaaS. In a survey of reseller business leaders conducted by Comms Dealer only 10 per cent identify themselves as specialists in UC or UCaaS, which Sinnott says makes sense because these are no longer standalone products and increasingly exist as one of the five or six critical pillars in a business technologies portfolio aimed at delivering process and productivity improvements, security and enhanced human performance. “That statistic reflects that UC is part of a bigger picture,” he stated.

It’s also no surprise to Sinnott that many long established channel organisations that have grown up in a telco-centric world are seeing substantial challenges in sales and support around UCaaS. “What was once a reasonably static product set has expanded in many directions in a short space of time,” he stated. “UCaaS and the portfolio of associated applications represent a learning curve for traditional resellers, and transitioning from being subject experts to students represents a big change, especially for more senior staff members who have been in the industry for a long time.

“While it may be understandable for a profitable salesperson not to enter the new world unless that traditional approach to selling telecoms changes, the business does risk being left behind. Also, more junior members are hungry to grow their careers and are open to embracing new technologies and business models. Alongside them are the new market entrants who may see a new, disruptive way of gaining revenue from UC.”

The challenge is keeping pace as competitors move from capex to opex selling. Meanwhile, new entrants from more SaaS-native market sectors are adding UCaaS and CCaaS to their solutions portfolio

Against this backdrop, many resellers and MSPs are finding the commercial principles of UCaaS difficult to work with compared to the model they have operated for many years, both in terms of general company overheads and the commission structures of their more expensive sales team assets. “As a result, capital sale products may have been retained in the mix longer than is appropriate, taking some flexibility out of customer solutions,” noted Sinnott. “The challenge is keeping pace as competitors move from capex to opex selling while new entrants from more SaaS-native market sectors add UCaaS and CCaaS to their solutions portfolios.”

Strategic planning
While Sinnott believes that a SaaS provision of voice and call centre services is the most sustainable way forward, he also says that a reseller or MSP’s strategic planning should be based on their existing or prospective target customers. “But while voice will remain a key focus for customers for the next couple of years, once the list of telephony features from multiple vendors becomes ubiquitous those elements will rapidly become commoditised, negatively affecting margins,” he added. “This is why the longer-term goal should be to select a UCaaS solution that can integrate and partner with mobile, collaboration, omnichannel chat and CRM integration tools.”

Sinnott observes that resellers achieving greater value in UCaaS have also widened the scope of customer support and reduced the focus on any one element. “Customers will pay more for a supportive supply partner than the sum of the price of the products they supply,” he added. “This is why developing an IT side to the business, including connectivity, mobile and professional services, and concentrating on customer outcomes – not pushing products for their own sake – is the way to build both value and loyalty, contributing to a more robust and sustainable future.”

Portfolio expansion
Surrounding UCaaS with as many other monthly recurring revenue (MRR) products like connectivity, security, standard mobile etc will increase the reseller or MSP’s ability to afford the level of service and account management that SaaS portfolios require, observed Sinnott. He also noted that customer productivity should be the specialism with UCaaS functioning as an enabling tool, and customer engagement the differentiator. “Collectively, we must understand where the customer derives benefits and bring technology to bear on what matters to them,” he said. “Otherwise, as people become more financially conscious it is impossible to create a budget.”

The key driver for every end user business is how technology will help them grow revenue, reduce customer churn, increase staff productivity, decrease staff churn, achieve a high NPS, hit green and social targets, and protect their cash position. In practice, says Sinnott, this means blending voice and non-voice services to simplify customer engagement while delivering tools that support workplace flexibility and collaboration. “For instance, voice call centres are now transitioning into a blend of voice and chat or email options,” he stated. “But as the potential of AI starts to be understood there is much to do in preparing the end customers’ businesses to take advantage of the technology.

“Accurate, secure and intelligent data is the future foundation of AI, and there is an increasing consensus that CRM integration holds the key to capturing more information and insight into customer engagement and preferences. As a result, AI will be better positioned to replace low level tasks to release human intelligence to be used when complexity, care or empathy obtain the highest reward. However, this is a journey, not a one-time action, so understanding the interaction between UCaaS and CCaaS is imperative.”

Support matters
The traditional vendor and service provider relationship with resellers is predicated on the reseller providing the sales and marketing effort while taking on first line support and customer management. Consequently, noted Sinnott, vendors and service providers are often not structured to step in and support their partners in a new way of working. “This is why it is vital to look at investment by both vendors and service providers to help their channel re-equip, learn, and transform because it is hard for many resellers and MSPs to bring in the expertise or deliver the staff training needed,” said Sinnott. “Partnering well with vendors and service providers with a vested interest in long-term success is essential, based on everyone pulling together and not driven by a short-term sales performance.”

Related Topics

Share this story