As businesses focus on meeting the communications and collaboration needs of their increasingly mobile workforces – while also seeking the flexibility, scalability and cost benefits that the Cloud can deliver – a strong opportunity exists for telecom providers able to rapidly bring competitive unified communications (UC) solutions to market. To do so, providers should consider five key strategies:
Develop a Differentiated Offering
One-size-fits-all may work in the clothing industry, but when it comes to business unified communications offerings, differentiation is critical. While a growing number of telecom providers have made unified communications a core component of their business offerings, UC services have, to date, been one-size-fits-all and horizontal in nature. As a result, the burden has been on telecom providers to adapt an offering to the specific needs of customers of all sizes and across all verticals.
Customization has developed a negative connotation around time to market, cost, etc., but the cloud model is upending that assumption and enables telecom providers to rapidly develop and launch customized UC offerings. To do so successfully, telecom providers should first gain a thorough understanding of how target markets (micro/small business, mid-market, large enterprise) communicate and collaborate and what their unique pain points are.
For example, small businesses will value advanced mobility capabilities such as Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC), one number and native dialing, dual personas, a mobile-first optimized user experience and personal calling functions such as Selective Call Forwarding, Hunt Groups, Simultaneous Ringing, and dial-by-name. SMBs will also look for flexibility and on-demand scalability that can be delivered affordably to meet business needs as they evolve.
Midmarket businesses will seek offerings with a more robust set of unified communications capabilities typically reserved for larger enterprises, such as mobile voice and video, presence and a consistent user experience that can extend across a business user’s preferred mobile and desktop devices. Finally, large enterprises will be looking for a full UC suite of services that includes hosted PBX and UC, contact center, and SIP trunking. Both of these segments will also value superior multi-site support, the ability to meet the needs of mobile and remote workforces, as well as on-demand scalability.
Deliver a superior user experience
The future of unified communications rests squarely on delivering a superior user experience, and service providers should launch UC solutions that create custom end user experiences based on business requirements. As traditional modes of communication (technology-driven, voice-centric, point-to-point, location-dependent, communication-focused, pay-per-use) give way to new communication models (experience-driven, multimedia-driven, multi-party, location-agnostic, affinity-focused), custom user experiences – mobile-centric ones in particular – are going to become more important.
Service providers must also be mindful that businesses evolving to UC still seek advanced telephony features integrated with the unified communications experience. For example, many SMBs still value key system capabilities for the user to determine line usage, so rather than replacing this functionality the telecom provider can add advanced IP-based unified communications services like call conferencing, dedicated number and extension support, voice mail accounts and on-line provisioning for adds, moves and changes. As a result, SMBs will be able to keep their existing departmental structures, eliminate expensive line rental charges and enjoy unlimited local and national calling.
Consider vertical market approach
Businesses are increasingly looking for unified communications solutions tailored to the unique requirements of their vertical, whether its hospitality, education, government, financial services, etc.
For example, businesses in the hospitality industry are actively seeking cloud-provided communications services to replace their aging PBX solutions and align with their corporate IT cloud migration strategies – as well as easily integrate with Property Management Systems. Rather than try and offer hoteliers a horizontal solution, telecom providers may be better served delivering a bundled offering (including connectivity, minutes, unified communications and property management system data integration) that easily allows hospitality properties to create customized communications services using dynamically targeted pricing, packaging, service authentication and digital content presentations.
Furthermore, by leveraging the right unified communications software, telecom providers can also eliminate the capital investment, special knowledge and operational standards required to support the unique requirements of each vertical market.
Communicate cloud and mobility benefits
By 2020, millennials will make up half of the global workforce, and, as our recent global business survey confirmed, UC and mobility are becoming synonymous in order to meet the communications and collaboration needs of this mobile-first, geographically dispersed workforce. The ability for an individual to, for example, start an IM Chat from their mobile device, escalate it to a call with a single click, then seamlessly move to a videophone or Chromebook and expand the session to a multiparty video conference is the type of seamless mobility millennials demand.
While businesses reside at different points of the cloud and mobile adoption curve, cloud UC can be a key differentiator for telecom providers as it can drastically reduce capital expenditures, simplify the IT environment by reducing complexity, support resources for deployment and management, and enable new collaboration, teamwork, and mobility productivity applications for workers – all while offering necessary security requirements. We are already seeing UC-as-a-Service adoption move upstream from SMB to midmarket and large enterprises.
Leverage sales enablement programs
A successful UC offering doesn’t end at launch; telecom providers should seek out vendor sales enablement programs that include proven, ready-made market offers that address the needs of each market segment, sales training & enablement tools, proven marketing campaigns and best practices for customer fulfillment.
Sales enablement programs can include:
- Access to sales and marketing tools online so that telecom provider sales teams can more quickly achieve productivity;
- Digital demand generation that reflects business buyers are 70 percent of the way down the buyer’s journey before they even call on a vendor;
- Superior education collateral such as eBooks, TCO calculators, and white papers that can advance businesses down the buyer’s journey once engaged;
- Joint marcomm opportunities with UC vendors that can include press releases, events and media outreach.
Sales enablement can also be aided by service providers that implement the UC services in their own offices, as to be successful sales teams need to use the UC platform every day as part of their working tools. This is the most effective way to understand how business customers can maximize the benefits of unified communications.
Jonathan Reid is managing director for the APAC & CALA regions at BroadSoft, a global Unified Communications-as-a-Service company.